Russia

The Big Facebook Boys in the Russian Commonwealth

Facebook is not particularly popular in the former Soviet Union space when it comes to news media. Outside Russia, though, Facebook news media from other CIS nations are steadily building a strong market.
 
Today, we release Facebook Index CIS/Russia, which measures news outlets in this region based on the number of their followers reported to the size of their local market.
 
The size of the Facebook market in the former Soviet Union space is strikingly small. The Facebook Universe in that part of the world totals some 20 million users. That is less than a fifth of the total combined population in the region. The low popularity of Facebook in the former Soviet Union region, particularly Russia, can to some extent be attributed to the solid position on these markets of Russia-originated social media such as Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki and Mail.ru (originally, an email service that is growing into a social hub). In 2016, Vkontakte alone had a total of some 100 million active users, according to data from the site.
 

The News of Eastern Europe: Brought to You by Russia

For ten years, the Russian government has built media across eastern Europe. They are becoming a fearsome player in the region’s media market.
 
Last March, far-right British activist Jim Dowson told the Guardian that the website Patriotic News Agency, which he had launched in July 2016 to spread pro-Trump propaganda, has bases in Hungary and Serbia. He said that other such platforms are also based there.
 

Media Diet in Ukraine: Russian Social Media and Oligarch-Owned TV

Ukrainians trust Russian media less and are more aware than ever of who controls their local media. However, they still embrace Russian social networks and watch oligarchs-owned television.
 
In February 2015, I interviewed a top coastguard officer in the Ukrainian city Geniches’k, which is very close to the Russia-annexed Crimea. Before saying goodbye, he gave me his e-mail address to keep in touch. I was surprised when I saw that his electronic mailbox was registered on Mail.ru, one of the leading Russian email services.
 
He noticed my surprise and said: “Yes, yes, I know that it [the email address] should be changed, I’ll do it at some point.”
 
This happened after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the hottest stage of the war in eastern Ukraine, and in spite of repeated appeals by the Security Service of Ukraine known as SBU since spring 2014 to refrain from using Russian social networks and online services. One of the reasons is that strict anti-terrorist laws in Russia allow local security institutions to get access to a trove of online information. If you use one of the Russian internet services and platforms, it’s likely that some of the authorities in Russia can see part of what you share or do online. It’s thus surprising that even the Ukrainian military ignores this request.
 
However, not only troops are doing this - many people in Ukraine still resort to Russian online services.

What Happens When Media Oligarchs Go Shopping?

Mighty, politically well-connected oligarchs are in the mood for retail therapy, and their targets are media outlets. Their influence over journalism has begun to reach worrying levels.
 
Jack Ma of Chinese giant Alibaba, Rupert Murdoch of News Corp, Delyan Peevski from the tobacco maker Bulgartabak, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris and Saudi prince Al-Waleed are all completely different businessmen. They look totally unalike and live in different places. One is obese, another one is skinny. One hails from Sofia, another one from Cairo. Their tastes are dissimilar.
 
But they also have some things in common: an unwonted wealth, close links with political power and a firm grip on much of the world’s media.
 
The issue of ownership concentration in the media is not new. It goes back to the 1980s and 1990s when some of the now old media moguls began to build their holdings. The rise of disrupting internet behemoths in the past decade or so was expected to dent into their power. It didn’t.

Internet Providers in Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union: Non-Transparent, Dubious, Politically Linked

The Internet has become the new heaven for unheard voices, new forms of commerce and limitless communication across eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But who owns the companies providing this service? Many of these owners are unknown, others are linked with politics and some are dubious characters embroiled in criminal investigations.
 
A decade ago, the internet was the realm solely of the progressive, technically savvy, often nerdy youth in many countries of eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. But today, people who in the 2000s didn’t even have a computer regularly browse through their favorite news sites, email and buy their groceries online. 
 
Since 2000, internet usage in the Czech Republic has skyrocketed from less than 10% to nearly 80% of the population in 2014, according to data from World Bank. In less advanced economies such as Bulgaria, it has jumped as well to some 56% in 2014 from a mere 5% in 2000. Even in some slowly growing markets such as Armenia, over 46% of the people used the service in 2014, a gigantic leap from a mere 1.3% in 2000. 
 
But who is behind the telecom groups that provide this service?

The Moscow Times Changes: Trimming Costs and Fighting for Independence

With a new owner and now a new editor, the English-language paper The Moscow Times is being reformed from the ground up. A leaner, more economically resilient publication is likely to emerge - but, what rises from the ashes is an entirely different kind of paper which will probably not be very critical of the Russian government.

The appointment yesterday of the liberal journalist Mikhail Fishman at the helm of The Moscow Times has been lauded by many journalists as Mr Fishman is well known for his integrity and courage. He was the editor-in-chief of Russian Newsweek when it closed down in 2010, reportedly because of financial problems. He then moved on to work as an anchor on a political show aired by the liberal TV station Dozhd, which is known as virtually the sole television station in Russia that offers a non-governmental perspective on the political life. The station’s critical standpoint has often attracted the ire of the regime.

Russia Today. What About Tomorrow?

Regulator rebukes RT channel. But does that really hurt them?

Images of people covered in blood, with gashes and burns on their bodies, standing or lying down on the floor. A voiceover commentary follows: “The British Broadcasting Corporation is accused of staging a chemical weapons attack.” This was part of the Truthseeker program that RT, formerly Russia Today, aired several times on 23 and 24 March 2014 in the U.K.