In the recent elections, social media such as Facebook and Twitter were instrumental in engaging youth and bringing them out to vote. But the question remains: how can social media can help strengthen democracy in Pakistan?
Social media in Pakistan is an ever growing phenomenon. The editor of Dawn.com, Jehazeb Haq, recently compared Facebook to a virtual city competing with Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan with a population of 20 million and growing.
“Over prolonged periods of autocratic rule, the youth of the country was deliberately made apathetic. The revival of the political process happened at a time when social media had already arrived and started playing a central role in the lives of the connected youth. This medium was used to fullest extent prior to the 2013 elections to spread awareness about the imperatives of the democratic process, as a mobilization tool to garner support and canvassing of ideas and manifestoes by parties. Needless to say the youth was the vanguard of this new movement through the new media.” – Afia Salam, Member: IUCN Commission on Education & Communications
The power of social media in providing the right to speech has been limited, however, since 2010, when government attempted to ban many social media sites, resulting in an uproar from users and civil society groups. All past efforts by government to do so ultimately failed, resulting in access to social media sites being restored.
The only site that is still banned in Pakistan is YouTube, as the government says that it still makes blasphemous material accessible in the country. However, civil society organizations and youth groups are being vocal and have been advocating for restoring access to YouTube. Most of these efforts are done using social media.
CIPE Pakistan spoke to few key social media activists to get their views on the current state of social media in the country and how youth is using this medium.