Media plays a vital role in any society as it provides us with the understanding of the world around us. However, with this authority of giving perspectives and opinions to masses about the world, comes the responsibility of disseminating information in an objective manner. An independent vibrant media serves as an accountability watch dog over the executive.
To become truly the fourth pillar of the state, media still requires certain professional and ethical standards of journalism to be strictly followed and abide by. The rise of the sensationalist media and yellow journalism in Pakistan has led to the emergence of a debate in various circles in the country about the accountability of media and thus, we face the dilemma of deciding “who will watch the watch dogs”.
With over 30 million active internet users and internet penetration standing at 16%, Pakistan has one of the fastest growing internet usage rates in Asia. The advent of 3G and 4G technology has further boosted Pakistan’s internet connectivity statistics with more than 13 million active 3G/4G users as of June 2015. The bulk of internet users (i.e. about 70%) are below 30 years of age and the majority of social media users boost similar demographics (e.g. Facebook: 70% users between 18 – 34 years of age). These facts and figures emphasize that there is both a need and immense potential to promote citizen journalism in Pakistan – especially among the youth which forms more than 60% of the country’s population.
Another reason that can be attributed to the growth of social media in Pakistan is due to the overtly sensational outlook of TV channels that are driven by rating and often create unnecessary hype. This phenomenon has compelled many users to seek information through social media and also by using social media they are not being passive users but they can also share information with a wider set of audience.
Another important aspect relates to the fact that several people belonging to the younger demographic are not consumers of print media, however with the advent of 3G & 4G they are connected to social media portals invariably and sooner or later they assume the role of citizen journalists.
The prospects of citizen journalism and activism are bright in Pakistan as more and more young people have started voicing their concerns and are forming networks for wider advocacy. The social media movements such as the #Fixit cleanup campaign, the anti-terrorism movement of #NeverForgetPakistan are significant examples where young people are proactively engaging society in asserting our civic responsibilities by effectively using tools such as the Right to Information Act.