Russia: Broadcast Yourself

As of this month, the Russian Parliament will join the ranks of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and others in broadcasting plenary sessions of the State Duma online. (That is the original link so it will need to be translated. Microsoft was able to do it for me. Globalization, is that you?) Such broadcasts are intended to increase transparency, a political goal very in vogue in 2009 internationally.

The practice of broadcasting parliamentary sessions has been followed in developed democracies and attempted in third world countries to give constituents a look into the actions of their representatives. Whether or not this necessarily ensures accountability is open to debate.

As I see it, this practice makes a number of critical assumptions.

–          First, it assumes access to information. While the internet is a powerful medium for widely distributing information, it does disadvantage certain groups. This particular post makes no mention of television or radio coverage, which would increase the audience able to participate.

–          Second, it assumes freedom of information. A live broadcast would ensure that no manipulation has been done to the broadcasts or other transcripts.

–          Finally, if the second assumption is incorrect and broadcasts are adulterated, this practice assumes that a privately controlled broadcasting media will step in to prevent propaganda, be it through commentary or access to sessions itself. If the State monopolizes information, the Duma’s broadcasts are not truly transparent.

In the end, I see this as a move in the right direction for a government that in previous years has been otherwise elusive in its political practices. However, I am cautious in my acceptance of these assumptions. This becomes a matter of trust placed in the Russian Duma to openly transmit all information. But who knows? Maybe soon I’ll be able to catch some of the Duma’s broadcasts right alongside C-SPAN.


Note: I was tipped to this particular issue via a post from one of my personal favorite blogs, Global Voices. I recommend it.


~ by Lindsay Bembenek on January 6, 2010.

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