Tuesday, January 10, 2012

‘3 million social journalists in country and gaining strength’

By Amar Guriro
KARACHI – Pakistan has over 3 million social journalists and the number is increasing with the passage of every day with 6.2 million users on microblogging site Twitter and over 4 million social network Facebook users already. This was observed by top bloggers, twitteraties, netizens and other experts from Pakistan, Indonesia and Egypt at Pakistan’s first international social media summit jointly organised by the US Consulat in Karachi, PC World, Intel, iRaffles Systems, Newsweek, CityFM89 and the Express Media Group.
Apart from prominent Pakistani bloggers including Raza Rumi, Awab Alvi, Sana Saleem, Naveen Naqvi, A.J. Shirazi, Imtiaz Muhammad, Ali Abbas Zaidi, Shehrbano Taseer and Yasser Latif Hamadani, some international bloggers including Mohamed El Dahshan (Egypt), Hanny Kusumawati and Anandita Puspitasari (Indonesia), Rebecca Chia (Egypt) Ong Hock Chuan (Malaysia), Claire Diaz Ortiz (US) and Karim Osman (The Netherlands) also participated at the summit. Addressing on the occasion, US Consul General in Karachi William Martin said Pakistan is one of the fastest-growing Facebook- and Twitter-using nations in the world with the official data revealing that it is the ninth nation which uses Twitter the most.
“There are over 4 million Facebook users here while the US Consulate Karachi’s Facebook page has over 30,000 fans,” he added. “The per capita internet-access rate in Pakistan is between 10 percent and 15 percent of the total population – more than double that of India and even at the most conservative estimates roughly 20 million Pakistanis are online – equivalent to the population of 4 Singapores.
“Pakistan has a lively, active blogging community, where over 3 million citizen-journalists can freely report on and discuss any topic.
“During the last year’s floods, I saw the social media network shining the light on this situation and many others,” said Martin. “The social media really does create a global village and it is an honour to be here with so many distinguished citizens. I am struck by the talent, the imagination and the commitment I see. You all validate, you all energise my enthusiasm, my optimism for this great nation Pakistan. From where I stand, the future looks bright. I see leaders and visionaries that will help realise the vast potential of the Pakistani people,” he said.
Talking on press freedom in Pakistan, the US Consul General said the freedom was earned over time through the sacrifices of people especially the media community. “We must never forget the journalists who were killed or injured as they sought to report on the challenges facing us today. They have been as brave, as selfless as any soldier on the battlefield. I know that there are people here today that take extraordinary risks to enlighten us all of the truth. Nobody embodied this commitment more than Saleem Shehzad, who was senselessly murdered trying to pursue this truth. But there is no doubt that his work will continue and others will pick up the baton and carry on.
Renowned journalist Kamal Siddiqi said that social media is the best platform where different social problems and taboos can be discussed easily, which are not being reported by the traditional media.
“Recently the Pakistani media has started utilising citizen journalists and blogging on their websites,” he said, “I believe that social media will not disturb traditional media, but it will help the media to get information rapidly.”
Sherbano Taseer said the social media has created an online arena where people can talk about the grievances about their governments – referring to the Arab uprising.
“During the Japan earthquake and tsunami, for many people Twitter became the mode of sharing news with their family and others. Just imagine that the videos put up by common people in Japan followed by the tsunami received 17 million views in one night,” she added.
On a question, Taseer said the social media is overtaking the print media in Pakistan.
Different panel discussions under the title ‘Education and Good Governance: Going Digital’, ‘Women and Social Activism in the New Media Era’ and ‘Monetizing your Social Media Space’ were also held during the summit.

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