Uh, hadn’t I already read about each of those developments in post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt? Is the Arab world, at least those countries that manage to overthrow their autocratic leaders, simply doomed to repeat some version or another of the disappointing post-Soviet story? Is “happily ever after” simply not an option after revolution, whether the Orange or Rose revolutions of Ukraine and Georgia or the breathtaking people power victory in Egypt?
These are questions about larger outcomes than just the future of the Arab media, and I’m sure that dozens of panels, lectures and op-eds will consider them in the coming weeks and months. I hope that some will focus on the media’s role as well; in a sign of hope, Columbia Journalism Review recently described post-revolution Arab media as “warily testing boundaries, adjusting to new realities, and daring to dream of the possibilities.” It’s good that they have moved beyond their role in toppling the autocrats, to consider the far more important role they can play now in helping the post-revolutionary state build strong, transparent, accountable, and democratic institutions.
Such institutions are scarce to nonexistent in post-1991 Russia. So, rather than organizing an event about “lessons learned from the Gorbachev coup,” I probably will take my Russian friend’s suggestion, and simply raise a toast this August to that shining moment in 1991, when Malkina, Medvedev, and quite a few other Russian journalists risked everything to make a difference with their courageous defiance.