Baku, March 3 – Ingush President Murat Zyazikov who has tried and failed to close down the news portal Ingushetiya.ru which regularly provides information about his outrageous and authoritarian rule has decided to try one more time: He has created a site with an almost identical name but with completely different content.
Zyazikov, almost certainly the most despised of Vladimir Putin’s appointments to the leadership of a non-Russian republic, now is organizing his own website with the name Ingushetiyaru.net in a transparent effort to undercut his nemesis, attack his enemies, and confuse outsiders (http://www.ingushetiya.ru/news/13487.html)
The site, which has been irregularly updated over the last month, will formally be launched next Monday. The project is headed by a Zyazikov relative – an indication of just how narrow his base of support is there – and is being created by Ilez Dzaurov, who hacked Ingushetiya.ru so as to redirect visitors to a pornography site.
Moreover, unlike Ingushetiya.ru, the Zyazikov site will be carried by all three Ingush providers. Ingushetiya.ru is currently available only to those with access to the Internet via satellite or to readers of wall newspapers where printouts of its articles are regularly posted.
But despite those advantages, there appears little chance the new site will attract much attention except possibly from Russian or foreign journalists who equate balance at all costs with objectivity. And the editors of Ingushetiya.ru have dismissed this enterprise with an expression of thanks to Zyazikov “for the free advertisement” of their work.
A sampling of its initial offerings suggests why Ingushetiya.ru probably has little to worry about at least among Ingush and others in the North Caucasus itself:
On February 8, the Zyazikov said its site is “an alternative to the false, dirty information policy of the Ingushetiya.ru site and its owner Yevloyev Magomeda. Ingushetiyaru.net,” it said, will be “a documentary” one and not force its views on anyone (http://ingushetiyaru.net/novosti/2008/02/08/studiya-sunzha-vystupila-v-shkole-internate-dlya-detej-sirot/)
On February 25, it said that Ingushetiya.ru has used “bandit” sites, only “harms the Ingush people,” and have an exaggerated and totally unjustified view of their own importance and ability to use “virtual” space to drive “real” reality. And it ended with a curse on Yevloyev and all his friends (http://ingushetiyaru.net/novosti/2008/02/25/o-sajte-ingushetiyaru-etot-material-perepechatan-s-sajta-galgaicom/).
And then, on Saturday, it posted the following notice: “Respected visitors of the site Ingushetiyaru.net! Reports which contain uncensored language will automatically be deleted as spam. We call on everyone to engage in constructive and civilized dialogue.”
On the same day, however, the site posted an article ostensibly by a certain V. Ozdoyev attacking Yuliya Latynina for her writings about Ingushetiya and Ossetia in precisely the kind of way that the site’s own post suggested it would not permit
The importance of Ingushetiya.ru in countering Zyazikovwas highlighted again last night in reporting about levels of participation in the Russian presidential elections. It reported that local monitors had determined that only 5742 people or 3.5 percent of the electorate participated in that tally (http://www.ingushetiya.ru/news/13512.html).
At the time of this writing, Zyazikov’s site has not reported any figures at all. But officially, his government says that more than 86,000 people, some 15 times as many or approximately half of the registered voters participated, took part in yesterday’s voting (http://www.regnum.ru/news/965728.html).
What is important to note here is not so much the discrepancy but rather that because of Ingushetiya.ru’s reporting of the “I did not vote” campaign in the past and its coverage of local monitoring this time around, even Zyazikov did not dare make the kind of claims of participation in the presidential vote that he did in the Duma elections.
In other parts of the North Caucasus where there is no analogue to Ingushetiya.ru, leaders continue to make claims about participation and support for the Kremlin that are implausible at the very least but cannot be easily challenged because there is no authoritative alternative source of information.
Zyazikov’s new entry into the cyber wars, however, is only the latest indication of how important the Internet has become in a Russian Federation where almost all the other electronic and hence more affordable and accessible media are now under the control of the Kremlin.
Indeed, last week saw yet another chapter in this struggle when activists in Karachay-Cherkessia outed the local academic who had cooperated with the FSB in preparing several more potentially convincing articles about Islam and terrorism (http://new.09biz.ru/2008/02/28/v-fsb-kchr-pishut-stati-v-soavtorstve-s.html).