How Russia’s main opposition figure created a media empire on social media
Russia’s main opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, has long been banned from live broadcasts on federal TV channels and radio stations. These information mediums even refuse to say his name, saying ‘this character’ instead.
Therefore the politician had no other option but to use the internet audience, Novaya Gazeta writes.
Now his most powerful ‘agitation’ instrument and tool for spreading information is his YouTube channel, to which 1.7 million people are subscribed, and the views for all of Navalny’s videos totals more than 3 million.
Navalny is the only politician who uses social media as a real means of spreading information in Russia.
His activity on the internet began in 2008. Then, the little-known politician bought shares in the largest Russian state companies after which he used his ownership rights to access a number of corporate documents. Navalny’s goal was to shed light on embezzlement and money laundering.
He then began publishing the results of his research on his personal page on LiveJournal. Several of his investigations, which revealed large scale violations in state companies, did not produce the desired result as the investigative committee did not take an interest in the majority of these cases. But Navalny got what he wanted – a reputation on the internet.
By the end of 2011 Navalny’s blog had more than 55 000 daily readers, and Time magazine included the Russian opposition figure in its list of the world’s most 100 influential people.
In 2012, Alexei Navalny combined all his internet projects together into one structure and called it the ‘Anti-Corruption Foundation’. The main aim of the foundation was to supposedly monitor state expenses.
A year later the results of the foundation’s first major investigation was published, which described the property wealth of the then State Duma MP Vladimir Pekhtin who had numerous properties in Miami, Florida. This eventually lead to Pekhtin’s resignation.
In the summer of 2013 Navalny participated in a large-scale pre-election campaign as a mayor of Moscow candidate. Navalny’s blog on LiveJournal turned into a micromedia outlet: every day, three posts were
published, the aim of which was to first raise the ranking of the opposition figure in Moscow and to chip away at his main opponent, the incumbent mayor Sergei Sobyanin. That was when the first videos appeared on Navalny’s YouTube channel.
He received 27.24% of the votes without an ounce of state media support.
Over the past few years, Navalny’s channel has become one of the most popular on the Russian segment of YouTube. This is mostly thanks to the large-scale investigations of his foundation about corruption among Russian officials. The most watched of these investigations looked into suspicious connections between the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev with Russian oligarchs: it received more than 26 million views.
On Navalny’s main YouTube channel videos now come out several times a week and each garner about a million views.
On his second channel, which is called ‘Navalny Live’, live broadcasts release different programmes daily. An employee of the foundation, Lyubov Sobol, said that a 24-hour stream will become available in the near future on the channel.
In January of 2018, the politician announced the creation of a new media project which is called ‘Novosti’ [News].
“I don’t doubt that the news from ‘Navalny Live’ will be in the top ten Russian media sources that are able to talk about truth in at least some manner,” says the opposition figure.