New Me­dia vs. Old Pol­i­tics: The In­ter­net, So­cial Me­dia and Democrati­sa­tion in Pak­istan

The In­ter­net, So­cial Me­dia and Democrati­sa­tion in Pak­istan

The Diplomatic Insight - - Contents -

The first com­pre­hen­sive re­port on the role of so­cial me­dia in Pak­istan has been launched by the Ger­man po­lit­i­cal foun­da­tion, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Pak­istan in Karachi. The re­port ti­tled “New Me­dia vs. Old Pol­i­tics The In­ter­net, So­cial Me­dia and Democrati­sa­tion in Pak­istan”, is writ­ten by Mr. Mar­cus Michaelsen. Mar­cus Michaelsen is a re­searcher and PhD­can­di­date at the de­part­ment of me­dia and com­mu­ni­ca­tion stud­ies, Univer­sity of Er­furt (Ger­many). He holds a MA in Mid­dle Eastern Stud­ies from the Univer­sité de Provence (France). Mr. Michaelsen, by tak­ing Pak­istan as a case study, de­vel­ops an an­a­lyt­i­cal frame­work based on po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion the­ory and re­search on me­dia in pro­cesses of po­lit­i­cal change. He ar­gues that demo­cratic de­vel­op­ment in Pak­istan seems to be chal­lenged by the re­sis­tance of the po­lit­i­cal elite to changes in the dis­tri­bu­tion of power andwealth; de? cits in eco­nomic and hu­man de­vel­op­ment; a signi? cant risk of so­cial con? ict; and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity's per­cep­tion of the coun­try as a fail­ing state in need of control and sta­bil­i­sa­tion. Most im­por­tantly, Pak­istan has to de­velop a po­lit­i­cal cul­ture of ra­tio­nal de­bate, tol­er­ance, and non-vi­o­lent con? ict res­o­lu­tion. Af­ter the “Arab Spring” terms like “Twit­ter/Face­book revo­lu­tions” and “cy­ber op­ti­mism” have been en­dorsed as well as con­tested by many me­dia and po­lit­i­cal ex­perts around the world. Can a sim­i­lar mo­bil­i­sa­tion hap­pen in Pak­istan? This ques­tion has been asked by many. Only about 11 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion in Pak­istan use the In­ter­net which is far less than in Iran and Egypt. How­ever, Michaelsen ob­serves that the po­lit­i­cal use of the In­ter­net is in­creas­ing. The In­ter­net has opened up a space of de­bate for some pro­gres­sive lay­ers of civil so­ci­ety. Civic En­gage­ment and Cit­i­zen Jour­nal­ism: On­line me­dia was first used as a po­lit­i­cal tool in Pak­istan at the time of the lawyers' move­ment of 2007/8 and the protests against then Pres­i­dent Musharraf. In­for­ma­tion was dis­sem­i­nated through email lists, SMS, andYouTube. The In­ter­net be­came an im­por­tant source of in­for­ma­tion. Dur­ing the floods in 2010, Pak­ista­nis used the In­ter­net and so­cial me­dia to raise funds for the vic­tims. Im­ages and videos were posted on YouTube, Face­book and blogs, and in­for­ma­tion about the sit­u­a­tion in the af­fected ar­eas dis­sem­i­nated on­line. Without the help of the gov­ern­ment, cit­i­zens were us­ing the In­ter­net to en­gage in civic initiatives. Web-based So­cial Initiatives: There is an in­for­ma­tion gap within the ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas in Pak­istan. The main­stream me­dia is fo­cused on na­tional and “breaking news” and hence ne­glects the lo­cal and ru­ral sto­ries. This gap can partly be filled by so­cial me­dia initiatives. MaatiTVis an ex­am­ple of web based TV chan­nel that en­cour­ages am­a­teur and lo­cal re­ports. The Baloch Hal is an­other ex­am­ple of re­gional and In­ter­net re­port­ing. This web based news­pa­per is banned in Pak­istan by the au­thor­i­ties. The re­port also men­tions two Pak­istani initiatives Take Back The Tech! and Gawaahi as case stud­ies. Both use the In­ter­net to sup­port gen­der equal­ity and­women's rights. On­line me­dia pro­vides an al­ter­na­tive pub­lic sphere where pol­i­tics, cor­rup­tion, de­vel­op­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and hu­man rights can be dis­cussed by in­flu­en­tial ac­tors of the so­ci­ety, ar­gues Michaelsen: “Ex­trem­ist ideas gain­ing ground in the pub­lic sphere have to be coun­tered by trans­par­ent in­for­ma­tion and in­clu­sive opinion for­ma­tion on the causes for the coun­try's var­i­ous prob­lems as well as pos­si­ble so­lu­tions. ... Al­ter­na­tive me­dia such as blogs, web­sites and so­cial me­dia may sup­port this process by giv­ing room to un­der­re­ported top­ics and crit­i­cal dis­cus­sions.”

* Cour­tesyby Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung,Pak­istan

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