Social media has become a prodigious platform for people from all walks of life in oppressed as well as independent nations. Social media has become a handy tool to supplant ‘biased’ and ‘censored’ medias in most countries.
People find it easier to highlight their grievances on the internet, instead of relying on ‘controlled’ media. In fact, we see trends and hashtags on Twitter covering ordinary and unique concerns from across the world.
Young people, on the other hand, belonging to any society, whether it is developed or not, free or oppressed, rich or poor, are often seen using social media sites for diverse protests including educational queries, social disturbances, rule of law, infliction of injustices, economic worries, governmental performances, and so forth.
They also laud their countrymen and leaders for achievements locally, nationally and internationally. Nevertheless, young people utilize social media as a platform to operate their fundamental human right to expression.
Focusing specifically on Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan, where I live in, social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouYube, Instagram, and WhatsApp have become necessary channels to address provincial matters.
These matters are usually overlooked by the national media. Some call it a media blackout in Balochistan, while others consider Balochistan a ‘no-go’ area. All this while, inhabitants of the province suffer due to the constitutional and legal crisis.
The recent Gwadar sit-in, led by Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman for 32 days, is the biggest example of how the trepidations of Gwadar, the hub city of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), have been continuously neglected by the provincial and federal governments. The state media also ignored the protests. This is despite the paramount significance of Balochistan in international-business vis-à-vis of the country.
Had it not been for social media and Pakistan’s biggest project CPEC being physically located in Balochistan, Gwadar’s demonstration, like the rest of the protests in Balochistan, would have gone unnoticed by national and international media.
On the other hand, University of Balochistan students, who led a protesting sit-in inside the campus against the disappearance of two of their fellow students. The sit-in lasted 20 days, closing all academic and non-academic activities on campus. This protest was also ignored until the matter was taken to social media.
The two missing students, Sohail Baloch and Fassieh Baloch, were whisked off away from the university hostel on November 1, 2021. Some of the print media outlined the matter. Following the sparse coverage in the national media, the provincial government set up a committee to redress the issue of the students.
The disappeared students are yet to be produced before any court. However, the matter has been lifted to the highest forum through protests on social media.
In fact, several other protests are happening in the province. There is the sit-in camp of medical students of Makran Medical College Turbat, Jhalawan Medical College Khuzdar and Medical College Loralai outside the Quetta Press Club. There is the demonstration of the Young Doctors Association and others due to floods and other reasons.
National media, however, rarely, follows these issues. The reasons may vary according to their terms and policies towards Balochistan.
Amidst the increasing dilemmas of Balochistan and incessant inattention from the national media, the youth of this ‘underrated’ province have relied on social media to demand their right. Without social media, they would have kept waiting for a green signal from the national media.
After gaining traction on social media, their protests were aired on national media, although in a lesser frequency. Without the influence of social media, we would have yet to wait for our voices to fall on the right ears.