The Open Society Foundations (OSF), an international organization working for shaping public policy to promote issues of democratization, human rights, and social reform and founded by billionaire investor George Soros, launched a new report on digital media in Pakistan, titled “Mapping Digital Media: Pakistan” in Islamabad on Friday. The event was attended by several journalists, researchers, academics and other members of civil society.
Written and edited by Huma Yusuf, a prominent Pakistani columnist, policy analyst and media researcher, the report covers aspects of digital media penetration in Pakistani society as well as the regulatory framework under which media organizations operate in, their financial models, impact of new technologies on journalism practices and the broadcasting spectrum. Speaking at the event via video-link from London, Yusuf highlighted how the report was significant in the evolving media landscape of Pakistan today as it is the first one-stop option to learn about the industry’s dynamics.
“There has been a proliferation in broadcast media outlets since deregulation in 2002…and the country has great potential for media to grow, inform and play an important role. We are sure that the stakeholders in Pakistan will greatly benefit from the extensive research covered in the report,” said Yusuf.
The launch of the report is also part of a global collaborative effort called the ‘Mapping Digital Media Project’ which covers 60 countries, with Pakistan being the 44th country where the report has been launched so far. Synonymous to the aims of its parent organization, the ‘Mapping Digital Media Project’ also strives to build bridges between researchers and policymakers and lay a foundation for advocacy and debate.
Speaking on the occasion, Marius Dragomir, senior manager and global publications editor at the OSF media programme, said that “the report offers a unique opportunity for comparative research that puts Pakistan’s media evolution in an international context.”
The report makes some critical recommendations by encouraging the expansion of digital media into the tribal frontiers of Pakistan, the development of legislation to cover the cyber arena, and to reduce the threats to journalists in the country by investigating killings of media personnel more thoroughly.
Growing use of social media is driving political and social activism and significant social change in Pakistan.
Much of the communication and organization of civil society members in support of the lawyers' movement used social media platforms like facebook and twitter.
Pakistan saw the beginnings of online civil and political activism in 2008-2009 when the lawyers, according to Woodrow Wilson Center's scholar Huma Yusuf, "used chat forums, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds, and blogs to organize the Long March, publicize its various events and routes, and ensure that citizen reporting live from the march itself can be widely circulated to counter the government-influenced coverage of the protest on mainstream media outlets (such as state-owned radio and private news channels relying on government-issue licenses".
New media have broken stories where traditional media has failed, like Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's son Arsalan's corruption scandal.
Politicians and their supporters are active on facebook and twitters to organize and get their messages out and influence public opinion and get votes.
New young talent is getting attention by posting its protest music videos online.
Young men in Lahore have organized through facebook to clean city streets.
Young men and women are defying old customs of arranged marriages based on parents' choices and going for civil marriages outside their families and biraderies. Some of it is resulting in violence by the old guard as evidenced in more honor killings.
In 1992, the applications for court marriages in Karachi amounted to about 10 or 15, mainly applications from couples who were seeking the protection of the court for wedlock without familial consent, according to Arif Hasan. By 2006, it increased to more than 250 applications for court marriages per day in Karachi. Significantly, more than half of the couples seeking court recognition of their betrothal came from rural areas of Sindh. This is yet another indication of how the entire feudal system and its values are in rapid collapse.
Flashmobs are becoming more common.
Gays are finding each other through social media and organizing underground gay parties in Karachi and elsewhere.
Social media use in Pakistan is small but growing very rapidly.
Its economic value is hard to gauge now but you can see its use in the start of viral marketing campaigns.
As the number of users grows, companies will start to devote more and more resources to it to generate more revenue and profits.
Here are a few useful links:
Pakistan has vowed to take action against the promotion of terrorism online, but some experts say there is little the government can do about it.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government in January announced a 20-point National Action Plan to crack down on terrorism after the December massacre of 133 schoolchildren at an army-run school in Peshawar. The plan calls for "concrete measures against promotion of terrorism through Internet and social media" and declares a "ban on glorification of terrorists and terrorist organizations through print and electronic media."
The plan does not elaborate on what the "concrete measures" would be, and officials have not outlined the steps.
Tech-savvy militant organizations use Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media channels to post videos, press releases and speeches in support of their agenda.
A Twitter account in the name of Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan posts written and multimedia content almost daily, in English or Pashto. While the account has a tiny number of followers by Twitter standards, at 223, it can be accessed by anyone online.
A media unit associated with the Taliban launched a Facebook page in late 2012 to recruit writers for a propaganda magazine, but Facebook shut down the page a week later, the London Telegraph reported.
There is also a proliferation of anti-Taliban sites, including several pages on Facebook. One, whose title translates to "The Taliban Are Extremists and Oppressors," has 25,420 "likes" or followers.
Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman calls online dissemination of propaganda by militant groups "cyberterrorism." She says the government has moved to block certain websites.
"Only that content would be blocked that is considered a threat to the country's security," Rehman told News Lens.
One such site is a web portal called IhyaeKhilafat, which means "reclaiming an Islamic system of government." Ehsan's Twitter account links to the portal, purported to be affiliated with the central media department of Jamatul Ehrar, a faction of the umbrella militant organization Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
However, attempts to open the site since March result in a page displaying only the message "This Account Has Been Suspended."
The government has proposed legislation that would set up an independent agency to deal with cybercrime, including the use of social media by militants.
"The government has proposed giving authority to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to block websites that go against the constitution of Pakistan," Rehman said.
Sana Ejaz, a Peshawar-based human rights lawyer, said militants are using social media "for the propagation of their agenda, broadcasting content against the Pakistani state."
"The social media accounts of militants should be blocked," Ejaz told News Lens Pakistan. "However, blocking is not a lasting solution as users will simply set up new accounts."
Ejaz advocates a "proper counter-response policy," that would include a dedicated think tank, she said.
"The government should establish a social media think-tank team to respond to propaganda of the militants on social media."
Farhan Khan Virk, an Islamabad-based social media commentator, said militants first start sharing religious material on Twitter or Facebook feeds to attract users, then begin broadcasting material against the Pakistani state.
"They mostly broadcast content against the Pakistani military and brand them American agents working against jihadis," Virk told News Lens.
"Extremists are really active on social media," he said.
Humans Of NewYork Photo Coverage help humans in #Pakistan http://on.wsj.com/1JLJLjD via @WSJIndia
Brandon Stanton’s popular Humans of New York website is a photographic tribute to the faces and thoughts of the citizens of Manhattan. But this August, in a sharp departure from his usual stomping ground, the street photographer visited Pakistan.
And, by putting the South Asian nation into the frame, Mr. Stanton said on his website that he’s helped raise more than $2 million for a Pakistani charity.
The former bond trader has attracted an international following for his humansofnewyork.com website, which has more 14 million likes on Facebook, by posting photos of people he meets, along with a quote or short blurb about them.
Following his adventures in Pakistan, Mr. Stanton posted pictures of people with datelines from Karachi to Lahore and the Hunza Valley to Passu.
One photo with a Lahore dateline shows a man and woman standing awkwardly next to each other with the quote: “Our friends are trying to set us up.” In another, with a Passu dateline, a man smiles as he sits next to a wall. The quote says, “I am the happiest man in Pakistan.”
Mr. Stanton also met, photographed and wrote about bonded laborers working in the country’s brick kilns, a woman who needed treatment for Hepatitis C and a man who lost a tractor in an accident and required medical care.
The street photographer’s fans responded to these people’s stories by heaping money onto a fundraising page—set up on a website that allows people to make online payments to support a cause—for the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, posting offers of help for the sick woman and donating more than $6,000 on a fundraising page for the man with the broken tractor.
Mr. Stanton’s post about Syeda Ghulam Fatima, who is general secretary of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, asked readers to donate to her charity–and the fundraising page that states its organizer is ‘Humans of New York’–shows they pledged more than $2 million after he did so.
The Bonded Labour Liberation Front’s website says its mission is the “total eradication of the bonded labor, injustice, illiteracy inequality and poverty in south Asia.”
A person is described as a bonded laborer when their work is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan. The person is trapped into working for very little or no pay, according to human rights organization antislavery.org.
A post on the Humans of New York Facebook page said Ms. Ghulam Fatima was set to meet with the charity’s board to plan an expansion of the efforts following the influx of money. Mehar Safdar Ali, an executive member of the organization, said its management committee is working on future plans and will announce them when ready.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we want to build a real freedom center in Lahore, here we can work on not just releasing families but rehabilitation. We want workers to be treated with the rights they deserve as citizens,” Ms. Ghulam Fatima said in a statement posted on the Facebook page to thank people for their donations.
“Before this fundraiser, Fatima had exhausted her financial resources in the struggle against bonded labor to the point where she feared that she’d be unable to pay her own medical bills. Thanks to everyone who donated over the past 72 hours, she now has nearly $2 million to continue her organization’s fight against bonded labor,” a post on the Humans of New York Facebook page said.
Mr. Stanton didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Separately, Mr. Stanton’s fans have donated money to help the man who was hurt in the tractor accident. Mr. Stanton quoted the man, whom he didn’t name but was later identified by the Islamabad-based nonprofit Comprehensive Disaster Response Services as Abdul Shakoor, as saying that despite injuries, he was continuing to work. Abdullah Sabir, a 22 year old from Lahore, Pakistan, who works in Internet marketing, said he set up a fundraising page for Mr. Shakoor after reading about him online.
The world's most bizarre #YouTube star is from #Pakistan. Here's the proof. #TaherShah #TaherShahAngel #Karachi
At a time when Pakistan finds itself in the news for grisly bombings and a soaring rate in executions, an unexpected angel has swooped in with a message of peace, love and harmony.
Two years after "Eye to Eye" baffled the country by giving birth to a huge cult following, the Pakistani singer Taher Shah returned this weekend with a second music video, "Angel," that has gone viral. Topping Twitter's trending list in India and Pakistan (and ranking third across the globe) and racking up millions of plays, this new classic may cement Shah's position as the world's most unlikely YouTube sensation.
Shah is a businessman from the port city of Karachi and doesn't seem to be a trained singer. His voice and the bizarre aesthetic of the videos have led some to believe that his shtick is an elaborate ruse. For most of the new video, Shah walks around a golf course wearing a tiara and a purple gown (bathrobe?), showing off his chest hair. One of the top commentors on the video for the song joked, "That awkward moment when you think you are an angel, but in reality u r a brinjal," using a common South Asian term for eggplant.
With anything this weird, it is probably good to hold on to a bit of skepticism. But in interviews, and in a blog post on the "ideology" behind "Angel," Shah comes off as a genuine believer in his power to inspire humankind's better side.
"Mankind is a beautiful 'Angel,' " he writes on his blog. "All humans' internal and external elements should be like an 'Angel' and spread their essence like a flower as an 'Angel' along with all of the world's entre [sic] value with respect so all 'Angel' like humans together can make their own and family world heavenly."
Shah's Urdu is immaculate, but his English, which he uses for some publicity and for his lyrics, is the source of much mirth. The two songs are filled with lyrical gems, but one of the most memorable from "Eye to Eye" is: "Without you/I am a butterfly/without fly."
The sudden star looks as if he could be Pavarotti's pudgy nephew, though with lovelier locks of curly hair and without the sonorous voice. His orchestra is made up of synthetic flutes, saxophones and percussion — as if straight from Kenny G's vault. The songs are tormentingly easy to get stuck in your head. So much so that many on Twitter — especially in neighboring India — have alluded to their weaponization:
For his part, Shah explained in a TV interview in Pakistan that the message behind his music is one of great optimism. "Please, please, please be entertained," he said in English, before switching to a mix of English and Urdu. "Be positive and feel the good things in your heart. When you feel good, then definitely you will be able to portray yourself better."
The world needs that message, and by extension, these songs. Here's hoping someone does a dance remix.
#Pakistan’s #Troll Problem: Girls face online harrassment by unscrupulous men in social media http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/pakistans-troll-problem … via @SimonParkin
Last June, an eighteen-year-old student at Edwardes College, in Peshawar, Pakistan, opened an e-mail to see a picture of her face digitally superimposed on the naked body of another woman. As the student read the attached message, her dismay curdled into panic. The e-mail’s sender, who identified himself by the pseudonym Gandageer Khan, claimed to have hacked into her Facebook account. He threatened to post the photo online unless the student sent him money, in the form of a prepaid phone card, and provided him with the personal details of other female students at Edwardes. When she refused, Khan uploaded the doctored image, along with several others, to a page that he had created on Facebook titled “Edwardian Girls.” Each picture now included the student’s name, her phone number, and a lewd message: “I am available for sex. Call me for a quickie.”
It later transpired that the student was among fifty young women whom the people behind the Khan account—two men, one named Muhammad Ali Shah, and the other identified only as Suhail—harassed and blackmailed for a period of four years before they were arrested, last August. “The whole of Peshawar was aware of what was happening,” Rabel Javed, another of the men’s targets, told me. “Every time a girl would take a picture, we’d be like, ‘I hope Gandageer doesn’t get a hold of this.’ Every girl thought she might be next.” Although some members of Javed’s extended family blamed her for the hack, her sisters were supportive. “They kept reminding me that none of this was my fault, it was actually this guy who was sick in the head,” she said. “I was fortunate. I come from a liberal family. Not a lot of girls are like me.” The subject of the first doctored photograph, meanwhile, claims that her father beat her for what happened, and forbade her from returning to college.
The students, including some sympathetic young men from Edwardes, rallied and began to petition Facebook to remove Khan’s page. “We all just kept reporting, but nothing seemed to work,” Javed said. Although all of Khan’s images had vulgar captions, not all contained indecent imagery. As a result, the arbiters at Facebook, whose closest office to Peshawar is located more than twelve hundred miles away, in Hyderabad, India, claimed that no community standards had been breached. “That’s when I understood there was a language barrier,” Javed said. “The abusive text was written in Pashto.” After months of trying fruitlessly to persuade Facebook to take the pictures down, Javed wrote to Nighat Dad, a thirty-six-year-old Pakistani lawyer, whose organization, the Digital Rights Foundation, provides support to women who are victims of online violence. Dad’s involvement provoked prompt action. Facebook removed the images, and a spokeswoman told me that, following this incident and others like it, the company has grown to “include native language speakers who review content in more than three dozen languages.” Then, on August 17th, the Karachi-based Express Tribune reported that Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency had arrested Shah and Suhail. According to Dad, the men eventually settled out of court.
“Online harassment in Pakistan differs from the West,” Amber Shamsi, a journalist in Islamabad, told me. In March, a conservative cleric stated that it was un-Islamic to follow the Pakistani celebrity Qandeel Baloch on social media, because she posted alluring photographs. When Shamsi retweeted a colleague’s claim that the cleric’s edict was genuine and not, as some claimed, fabricated, a group of trolls downloaded her Facebook photographs and used them to create new images labelled “slut” and “prostitute” and “cunt.” This sort of behavior is prevalent on the Internet because it is “prevalent on the streets,”...
#Islamabad #ChaiWala (tea-seller) is instant #socialmedia sensation in #India, #Pakistan. Signs modeling contract
A blue-eyed tea-seller from Islamabad has scored a modelling contract after featuring in an Instagram post that went viral.
Even more unlikely, the 18-year-old’s picture topped trending lists across Indian social media, warming an icy patch between the neighbours that has included calls for Pakistani actors to be banned from the Indian film industry.
Photographer Jiah Ali snapped the chai-wallah at a bazaar in the Pakistani capital on Sunday. Her Instagram post spread to Twitter and Facebook and kicked off a search for the name of the vendor.
He was identified on Tuesday as Arshad Khan, a teenager from Kohat district, who had been making tea at the Itwar Bazaar for three months.
Khan told the Dawn newspaper his first inkling of the scale of his fame was when he spotted local boys with flyers depicting his face. He was also mobbed by media outlets clamouring for an interview.
He told local media he was flattered by the attention but, ever the professional, said he preferred people not to shoot his picture while he worked.
On Wednesday a savvy online retailer, Fitin.Pk, seized on Khan’s sudden fame to sign him up to model a range of its clothes.
His picture – and posts swooning over it – were shared worldwide across social media, including in India, where ire towards the Pakistani government is running high after militants in Kashmir killed 19 Indian troops last month.
Growth of #Internet & #SocialMedia Spawning Many Tweeting politicians in #Pakistan
Twitter has been in existence since 2006; users can sign up for accounts in their real names or anonymously, and post short messages of 140 characters. In 10 short years, it has become the place for much political movement, first grass-roots actions like communication and organisation, as well as information dissemination. The Atlantic states: “Twitter has grown into a force that has bolstered grass-roots conversations, disrupted the top-down nature of political leadership and thought, and has given voice to groups long hidden on the political periphery.”
In Pakistan, Twitter was slow to catch on at first, and still remains a tool of the somewhat elite and educated, the first people to gain access to the internet. But with the boom in cheap smartphones (13.5 million subscriptions to mobile broadband in 2015) and the advent of 3G in the country, 17.2m Facebook accounts and 280m connections to Twitter a day, Pakistani officials and political parties knew they had to join the trend or risk irrelevance.
As the site ProPakistani writes, the last three or so years has seen a proliferation of government officials and agencies take to Twitter and Facebook in order to announce their activities, solicit public feedback, and deliver pro-social messages to the Pakistani public. The Pakistan Army’s ISPR uses Twitter to make announcements about security situations and progress in national emergencies. Diplomats and bureaucrats are not up to speed yet with Twitter or Facebook, and while most Pakistani embassies around the world have official Twitter accounts, they aren’t very active.
On the other hand, Pakistani politicians have taken to Twitter like gasoline on a fire. Some of the most popular Twitter accounts belong to leaders like Imran Khan, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who spend much of their time tweeting allegations at each other. Mavericks like Sheikh Rasheed and stalwarts like Dr Arif Alvi lend their personalities to their Twitter accounts, using Urdu and English to raise chuckles and deliver sober accountability respectively. It’s a lively arena with ordinary Pakistanis forming breathless fan clubs and fighting with each other in the hopes that their favourite politician-cum-celebrity will favour them with a ‘retweet’ or a ‘like’.
But our politicians and government representatives must bear in mind the weight of their office and their responsibility to the people when composing a tweet. Take the example of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who on Dec 23, 2016, reminded Israel of Pakistan’s nuclear ability in a tweet. He reacted to fake news that suggested Pakistan would send ground troops to Syria, with Israel purportedly threatening to retaliate with nuclear weapons if this happened. This tweet made it to the pages of international newspapers and turned Pakistan into a laughing stock.
The inventor of Twitter probably didn’t envision a nuclear incident resulting from an ill-thought-out tweet, but if anyone could make such a Stanley Kubrick-esque scenario a reality, it would be a Pakistani politician. With great Twitter power comes great Twitter responsibility; our leaders need to restrain themselves from abusing it to the detriment of the people they claim to serve