Citizen journalism among Kyrgyzstan’s internet users is becoming more and more popular, and with ever-increasing space and platforms, news spreads faster than ever.
Politicians and officials now use the internet as an informational tool for journalists and the electorate at large, and while some may or may not engage in slanging matches with trolls – which are internet users making deliberately offensive or controversial comments – others use social media to inform their followers of the day-to-day business of government and Parliament that can go unreported in the sensation-seeking traditional media.
Dastan Bekeshev, a Deputy of the Kyrgyz Parliament, posts information about Parliamentary decisions and his own opinions, such as: “The government has raised the excise tax on alcohol, increase will take effect from April 10,” also linking to his official website. Roza Otunbaeva, ex-President of Kyrgyz Republic, also posts information about her activities.Aselya Abykeeva, social media marketing (SMM) specialist for a large mobile operator, says that the internet space is now too big and important a communications medium to be ignored, and that politicians should certainly open social media accounts.
She said: “All politicians want to be closer to the people. Kyrgyz politicians open accounts, but often do not do it skillfully – only during a PR campaign, and merely adding friends, hoping that this is their audience. Everyone decides for himself what to write on their own webpage.
Either way it can impact on a reputation, and even if certain information is removed it is easy to make a screenshot.”Denis Berdakov, managing partner of SMM agency Digital Empire said that people trust Facebook and Twitter accounts, but only if you know exactly who you are reading.
He said: “Dastan Bekeshev,Nurbek Toktakunov are bright examples who often throw out a lot of interesting information on Twitter, some of which could be the basis of official investigations in the various ministries on issues of corruption, and abuse of power. But if you are not confident about the authorship, you should accept it critically.”Among millions of internet accounts there are several fake accounts claiming to be those of politicians. There is new phenomenon defined as BOT – an English term derived from the word robot – which is a programme that automatically performs actions on behalf of accounts, genuine or fake. Bots can be used for purposes including generating comment or activity about certain issues, for online campaigns. For example, by giving the impression of a large amount of sharing of articles or ‘likes’, to convince genuine internet users that a particular issue or campaign has a lot of online support. A 21st-century version of the herd instinct, or crowd psychology.
According to Ella Taranova, deputy head of the editorial board of the CIS and Baltic StatesDepartments of regional infrastructure projects and RIA News, the level of confidence in traditional media, and especially in the former Soviet Union, has for a while been at a bare minimum, which makes new demands on the online information consumer. She said: “Classical journalism is dying, and will die forever. The future is convergentjournalism. As in Russia, where half the population are now internet users, Kyrgyzstan is no different.”
By Begimai Sataeva