January, 2014. In Kiev protesters have taken to the streets to restore the constitution of Ukraine to its 2004 form. Victor Yanukovych had it repealed by the constitutional court, shortly after he was elected president in 2010. The police blocked the way, while Minister of Internal Affairs, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, authorized the police to use live ammunition. It was a disaster in the making. What followed next was on the most violent episodes in Ukrainian history. Reports of beaten, tortured and murdered demonstrators came up, the death toll grow up to 77 in only 48 hours.
At the other side of the world, in Brooklyn, Andrea Chalupa followed the events in the news. The reports made her angry. Seeing the disturbing images of Ukrainian bloggers on the internet, and at the same time Russia’s media downplaying the events made her distraught. But the worst was yet to come. While her home country was turned into a war-zone, CNN and most of American media spent most of its time covering missteps of Justin Bieber. This has been the last straw. Something was terribly wrong. There was something wrong with mainstream media, Putin’s propaganda machine and the way the revolution was covered in general. Something needed to be done. And Chalupa set out to do something.
The power of networks: A revolution in the making The journalists created a Facebook-page – the DigitalMaidan – and invited 99 of her friends, posting every piece of information coming out from the protestors and journalists on the ground, delivering a counter-image on what is happening on Kiev’s Independence Square. A hundred messages were made available on the page, making it easy for everybody to participate. After a few days 30,000 people were invited. The movement grew and soon the DigitalMaidan.com was launched, enabling every Twitter user to support the protestors instantly. “Within minutes Twitter was flooded with our tweets and the Hashtag “digitalmaidan became a trending topic worldwide”, declars Andrea Chalupa proudly.
The platform and the common goal brought the world’s activists together, challenging the sluggishness of US-media to cover the topic and more importantly, to take on Putin’s propaganda machine. The Twitter community picked a fight with the Kremlin-based media, being backed by millions. It was Russia Today against millions of tweeters operating worldwide. One Goliath versus millions of Davids. “Maidan means square, and we made the square exist everywhere”, states Andrea describing the power of the international network. How effective was the campaign?
Crimea got annexed, Ukrainia is still at civil war, but one major victory for democracy has nevertheless been won. For the journalist the last election “was the biggest victory for democracy in Ukraine since the end of communism”. 75 percent of MP are pro-democratic, willing to fight against corruption and totalitarianism. “These people are doctors treating wounded protestors, youth leaders, and activists with street experience which are now inside the government. Those are committed to make changes, devoted to fight for democracy”, continues Andrea.
While Ukraine is putting itself up again, the network still exists and it is growing every day to serve as a watchmen over Ukraine’s new start.
Best Tweets from DigitalMaidan: