The proposed topic for my research project is “The Role of the Internet and Citizen Journalism in Ukraine’s Revolutions”. Ukraine presents a very interesting case study on the effects of the ICTs on democracy and political movements. The famous Orange Revolution of 2004 which marked a historical transformation of geopolitics in Eurasia, is considered by many scholars the first in history that was organized online. How was it possible to overturn authoritarian regime without a single act of violence and utilize Internet 10 years ago when it was getting a very slow start in the early 2000s? How was it possible to organize and lead half a million people to remain on the streets of Kiev in 2004 day and night, to passionately endure frozen weather outside for 11 days straight and have one of the most impressive peaceful public protests in history with only 4% of population online at the time? Were the Internet and technology the only determining factors that brought success to the revolutionary struggle of the people or were there other important factors? What was the role of social media in the current political struggle for freedom and democracy in Ukraine, allowing the will of Ukrainian people to prevail despite harsh obstacles by Kremlin and massive FSB disinformation campaign all over the world.
Despite the Internet getting a very slow start in the early 2000s, Ukraine demonstrated very strong citizen journalism and highly trained online political activism from the very beginning to ensure the success of Orange Revolution and continuing strong resistance to the corrupted government installed and financed by Putin’s Russia. What is noteworthy about this accomplishment is that all the mainstream media was aggregated in the hands of the authoritarian government and the pro-Russian oligarchs (billionaires with fortunes tied to Russian oil and gas industries) and existed under harsh conditions of far-reaching censorship. While the government certainly saw the Internet as a threat, it had not come to legal consensus regarding silencing online journalists, which allowed citizen journalism in Ukraine to blossom and avoid the threat of defamation charges and prosecution that mainstream journalists faced.
Since that time, Internet usage has increased dramatically in Ukraine from 4% in the 2004 to 34% saturation in 2010. Today, Ukraine is ranked 9th in the “Top 10 Internet Countries in Europe” by International Telecommunication Union, United Nations’ ICTs specialized agency. Combined with the rapid political changes, open networks have become a very potent force for democratic process development in Ukraine.
Thanks to the ICTs widely accessible in Ukraine today, full utilization of social media by protesters, activists and politicians, and highly developed citizen journalism / political blogging culture, it was also possible for the Ukrainian people to overturn the corrupt and criminal pro-Putin’s regime in February, 2014 after 3 months of massive unprecedented protests in downtown Kiev.
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