Paper on Activism through Social Media
Social Media and Online Journalism
Deep Jyoti Shrestha
Roll No.: 35
3rd Semester, Section ‘A’
Lect. Sriram Poudel
Lect. Rishikesh Dahal
Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communication
August 13, 2015 A.D.
I would like to express my honorable thanks and gratitude to the respected lecturer of this subject Mr. Sriram Poudel and Rishikesh Dahal for their kind suggestions and co-operation. In regard, I would also like to convey much gratitude to Prem Sapkota, Deputy Director of Alliance for Social Dialogue for his valuable advices.
Also I am indebted to the scholars, authors and experts whom/whose books and links I have cited in this paper.
In this 21st century, the world is running towards the golden era with the rapid speed of time. It’s all because of due to the advance development of modern science and technology. Along with the development of science and technology, the forms of communication are also changing rapidly. Now, the time has come to view the world through the lens of new media in which world is limited only on the websites or hash tags of social media. The world is getting so progress in its advance forms of technology. Social media has come up with the most beautiful boon of the present world of new media in which people are connecting from face books, twitters, instagram, viber, whatsapp, skypes and so on. It is sharing networking with the people in various ways. And activism also has become the most powerful feature of social media these days.
It seems inevitable that with widespread social change comes the violent and bigoted pushback from those afraid of straying from the status quo. And in the age of the Internet, conflict comes with corresponding online movements, Plus hashtags.
This paper is written to show how the social media are playing a significant role for activism, how the hash tag trend are compelling the policy makers to bring about political or social changes with a huge pressure following the hash tag trend. The paper is moreover based on the Nepalese trend of social media activism with the popularity of social media in the scenario of ours. The study is focused on the four cases which are regarded very important landmarks in Nepal for the activism through social media that takes variety in agenda. Some activism was for individual justice, some for asking accountability in particular sector, some for creating solidarity in the time of disaster and some for pressurizing to be accountable in regard with providing the accurate, balanced and credible information through the media. The study is centered on #SitaRai, #IamwithDrKC, #NepalQuake and #GoHomeIndianMedia respectively.
Key Words: Social Media and Activism
Social Media: Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking
Activism: The policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.
‘Hash tag activism’ is a term coined by media outlets which refers to the use of Twitter’s hash tags for internet activism. The oldest known mention of the term is from The Guardian, where it was mentioned in context to describe Occupy Wall Street protests. Hash tags have a history on social media sites such as Twitter, Face book, and Tumbler. The origin of the hash tag stemmed “the idea of the hash tag as a means to coordinate Twitter conversations” between individual Twitter users. Chris Messina, a San Francisco resident, is coined with coming up of the hash tag where he personally called his idea “a messy proposal.”
One of the worldwide famous examples regarding such activism is of #BringBackOurGirls. Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria in May 2014, refusing to return the girls. The hash tag #BringBackOurGirls was created and used in hopes of keeping the story in the news and bringing international attention to it. The hash tag was used by first lady Michelle Obama to raise awareness for the kidnapped girls. The hash tag in itself has received 2 million retweets. This example of hash tag activism — a term coined to describe the use of viral hash tags to raise awareness and foster discussion about specific issues and causes via social media. Other examples include #Kony2012, #icebucketchallenge, #UmbrellaRevolution, #AmINext, #StopGamerGate and #YesAllWomen.
So, activist hash tags are online slogans that represent various political movements and are often used on Twitter and other social networks that use hash tags to file and categorize public posts. They’re considered useful in getting awareness about world events and political issues into the forefront of public attention without relying on mainstream media to do the job.
Context in Nepal:
Following events in the Middle East and in India, where young people harnessed the power of social media to achieve civic goals, Nepali youngsters concerned about the country’s political chaos are eagerly embracing this technology.
Example: On May 7, 2011, hundreds gathered at a public square in Kathmandu demanding that the constitution be drafted by the May 28 deadline. This event was unique to Nepali activism and political scene because social networking site Face book played vital role in organizing and encouraging the participants.
Pradeep Kumar Singh at Nepali Blogger views this as the new approach towards activism and organizing is certainly a path-breaking event for Nepal.
The event (Come on Youth, Stand Up!) was created on Face book which still was definitely a huge one. Nepali Youths organized a peace rally in Kathmandu through face book event to pressurize the leaders to give full commitment to the constitution writing process and to aware every youth to raise voice against every misdeed of the leaders in which around nine thousand youths responded to go in that event in face book at that time. This was a great example that proves the anticipation of social media activism in Nepal as well.
NepalUnites organized the protest rally. Unlike traditional brick and mortar groups which function offline through traditional communication medium and have still not integrated social media into their operation, NepalUnites is very active at Facebook,Twitter and YouTube. This had helped them reach youth audience, in Nepal and also among non-resident Nepali communities.
Another example is of Lex Limbu, a full time student who used to blog mostly about culture and music, was organizing a similar event in London along with Pradeep Kumar Singh. Under the banner of Nepal Unites London, they were organizing a protest meet on May 27 in front of the Nepali Embassy in London. And a huge mass appeared in the event just through the information on social sites. He is also active in social sites these days as well. Those beginning trends of use of social media for activism have become very popular in the present context when the popularity of social media has been increasing. Nowadays, following the above trends in blog, face book and you tube, now twitter has become most popular and powerful for the youth activists and other activists who prefers to do activism through social media. All the events now are created in the social media and also got success. Many political, social, cultural movements are done through it in Nepal these days.
The main objective of this paper writing is to show how the growing social media are playing role in activism. Similarly, the study also shows how the meaning of activism is transferring from street to the wall of social media or how the hash tag is becoming the main agent for the social change or movement in due courses of time or with rapid speed of time not only in the world but in developing country like Nepal as well.
Talking about the methodology, as this study is mainly focused on how a simple hash tag has become a way or medium for social movement or social media based activism only desk study based on various social media following the particular hash tag trend has been applied here. Overall it can be said that desk study based on four particular cases are studied as a whole.
The study is only based on the online study of the cases that are selected for the study. Only four cases whose hash tags have become special trade marks for the social and political activism through the use of social media, i.e. face book and twitter has been chosen for the study. The cases are #SitaRai which was the reason for Occupy Baluwatar Movement for fighting against the women right issue or better to say to fight for an individual justice case, second are #IamwithDrKC whose hash tag is very popular to show solidarity for Dr. Govinda KC’s attempt to fight with the corrupted system and policy of medical sector and also to save KC’s life who was gone for hunger strike for 15 days continuously, the third case is #NepalQuake which is started to create a kind of solidarity at the time of devastation through the social media by all over the world with Nepalese and the last case taken is #GoHomeInianMedia whose hash tag is created for the accountability of media institution.
This hash tag trend was very popular among social media activists. It is related with individual justice case of Sita Rai of Bhojpur who was accused of rape by Police Constable Parshu Ram Basnet after helping officials at the Department of Immigration (DoI) at the Tribhuvan International Airport rob her of Rs 218,000 on November 21. When the incident occurred she was returning from Saudi Arabia. At that time she was just 20 years. It was named as Occupy Baluwatar.
The Kathmandu District Court found Police Constable Parshu Ram Basnet guilt of raping Sita Rai (name changed) and sentenced him to five-and-a-half years in prison. District Court Judge Bishnu Prasad Koirala also ordered the victim be given NRs. 50,000 in compensation by the perpetrator.
According to news reports, Sita and her family living in Bhojpur had expressed their discontent on the decision. “Given a police personnel who is supposed to protect the people has committed such crime and the dishonor it has caused my daughter, I am not contented by the decision,” Sita’s father said. Basnet, along with some DoI officials, will also face trial in the Special Court for his involvement in corruption and abuse of authority. On April 9, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) filed a charge sheet against section officers Ram Prasad Koirala and Tika Raj Pokhrel, and senior non-gazetted officer Somnath Khanal. The CIAA has also directed the Home Ministry to take departmental action against the then DoI Director General Suresh Adhikari and his deputy Lekhnath Pokhrel for their involvement in the robbery.
On December 16, Rai filed a case at the Home Ministry and the Metropolitan Police Range Hanumandhoka, stating that she was robbed of 8,500 Saudi Riyal and subsequently raped. After DoI officials discovered that Rai was travelling with a passport of one Bimala KC of Parbat district, she was placed in detention for the night, where she was robbed and threatened with arrest if she refused to comply with their demands. Constable Basnet, on the pretext of dropping her off to the New Buspark, raped her at a local guesthouse. Basnet also seized her watch, perfume, T-shirts and the last 800 Saudi Riyal she had saved.
Rai’s case ignited a huge public outrage after the Post reported her story on December 18, resulting in the Occupy Baluwatar campaign, a public movement against gender-based violence, which lasted for over 100 days.
Following the campaign, the then prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, made a public apology through the state media and formed a high-level monitoring committee under a secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office to look into cases of violence against women.
The committee released an interim report after 15 days, which established the involvement of high-level immigration officials in Rai’s case. The committee’s mandate was extended for three months to review policies and legal provisions, while a final report is due to be released this week.
Many including normal people, human right activists, advocates and personalities from different sectors followed the hash tag trends in face book and twitter. Many shared, retweeted and used the hash tags to support for her.
This handle was created to show the solidarity and support for Professor Govinda KC who was doing non-violence protest for the sake of the welfare of all Nepalese medical sectors. His non-violence protest was supported by almost all who liked the agenda of Dr. KC and who wanted to make the medical sector free from corruption and accountable. This activism for accountability also became very popular trend of hash tag in social media. This activism was totally for policy level advocacy in medical sectors. Finally Nepal Government had also agreed to address the demands by Dr Govinda KC for ethics, quality & access in Medical Education after seeing the large supporters of Dr KC’s movement. People were informing people by tweeting like this “It’s awesome when people come together for a good cause. It’s the only way we can find solutions to our problems. #ComeTogether #IamwithDrKc”. Though hunger strike weakens Nepali doctor, his protest movement strengthens. Many used this hash tag in face book and twitter to support Dr. Govinda KC.
Dr. Govinda K.C. had his hunger strike for15 days and he had ended his strike after the he came for a new agreement with the government. The agreement says that the government will not allow affiliations to new medical colleges unless a new medical education policy is passed. According to the Nepali Times, K.C. said the agreement was a triumph of all Nepalese and apologized for inconvenience faced by patients due to his strike.
Inside the professors’ lounge at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Nepal, Govinda K.C. — swaddled in blankets, an oxygen mask strapped to his tired-looking face — grows weaker by the hour. It had been 10 days since the prominent orthopedic doctor and medical-school professor has taken a bite of food. He has gone from walking on his own to needing help getting up from his small, wood-frame bed. Outside that lounge, however, the 58-year-old’s movement to reform Nepal’s medical education system appears to be gaining strength.
Rallied by the hunger strike, more than 5,000 doctors avoided hospitals and clinics in solidarity, leaving most people in the South Asian country without access to health care, according to the Associated Press. The decision followed days of “inconclusive” talks between a government-formed committee and medical reformists and affected about 150,000 patients in more than 400 hospitals, according to the Kathmandu Post.
Foremost among the doctors’ demands is that the government makes medical education more affordable. Seventeen of Nepal’s medical colleges are privately run and are too expensive for the majority of the country’s citizens, the AP reported.
In Nepal, the political interference has dominated every sphere of the society, including education, and it has dismantled the foundation of higher education. So, as a citizen, he thought his life is nearly not as important as the 30 million Nepalese. He could not ignore millions of Nepalese who can’t get a decent access to health care, so he was doing that hunger strike. This what touched many’s heart and compelled to support him and resulted the activism as a whole.
Hundreds more supporters lined up outside K.C.’s quarters to visit him that time. The doctor acknowledged that leaders from political parties and civil society visit him daily. But, he said, such visits were made in a personal capacity. The national and international media gave priority and boosted up the activism more saying “They have not discussed changing things, pushing for reforms at an institutional level with their party,” he said. K.C. and other medical activists also say widespread corruption allows government officials to grant unwarranted “permits to private medical colleges,” according to the AP. They are demanding that those officials be dismissed from their positions and punished.
This is not the first time that K.C. has gone on a hunger strike to protest government corruption. Last year, he ended a 15-day hunger strike after government leaders promised to reform the medical education system, according to the AP. A year later, K.C. and his supporters say, the government has failed to live up to its promises. This time, K.C. said, he will not end his protest unless the government agrees to his full demands. And a mass on social media help to light his protest more in the form of activism by using this hash tag.
This hash tag trend was started in social media just after Nepal faced the tremendous shock after the quake of Baishakh 12, 2072 by the people from all around the world. It was begun to create positivity at the devastation among the people and to show the solidarity from all over the world.
It was also for solidarity to join for reconstruction or rebuilding of Nepal again after that nightmare. In this hash tag activism personalities from Nepal to different parts of the world had come together and showed their sympathy and solidarity with the beautiful and helpful words through their social media account either by praying for Nepal, informing the rest of the world to help Nepal and to visit Nepal again, to support it for rebuilding or reconstruction and so on. That was the time when the entire worlds came together for Nepal in one page and were connected through just that hash tag. That was really very awesome and emotional moment for all and for Nepalese. One of this tweet “Save time, money. Join Reconstruction Authority with Disaster Management Authority. #NepalQuake” by a personality of Nepal shows that how he is appealing to the Nepalese and rest of the world to join the reconstruction and rebuilding.
This hash tag trend had become worldwide popular at the time of Nepal Quake. It gave a new pattern to the activism through social media making the agenda international and provoking people to question if the thing is not right. This was a symbolical representation related with the asking for accountability even for the traditional form of media and questioning for the ethical standard of the media. This movement is against the popularity aim of traditional media especially TV channels through the use of sensational stories.
It is true that within six hours of the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, India sent men and material to aid in rescue efforts. By the next day, huge rescue teams had arrived, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an emergency cabinet meeting to plan India’s response. Indian media outlets were bullish about promoting New Delhi’s efforts. Nepali journalists also wrote favorably about India’s decisive response in the beginning and people were also considering their help positively. But just over a week later, the narrative has changed. There are murmurs of discontent in the Nepali media about India’s role in the rescue mission. People are also upset about the conduct of the Indian media in covering the worst natural disaster to ever hit Nepal. As a whole, Nepal is not happy with the way the Indian media conducted itself in the wake of the great earthquake. (Sanjay Kumar, The India Media’s PR Disaster in Nepal)
According to Sanjay Kumar, (The India Media’s PR Disaster in Nepal), “The hash tag #GoHomeIndianMedia began trending on Twitter, with thousands haranguing the Indian media over perceptions that its coverage had been jingoistic and insensitive. Critics back in India are also questioning the coverage, which has centered on New Delhi’s magnanimity toward Nepal in the wake of the disaster.”
As already said, the hash tag #GohomeIndianmedia had brought a big splash throughout the social media during that time. It was a great challenge to the spiral of silence theory through the social sites. The editorial of The Kathmandu Post (Taking a hit published on May 5) writes ‘It was used for criticizing Indian media coverage of the earthquake. The anger was primarily an outcome of sensationalized reports by Indian television channels. Many of them also got their facts grossly wrong. A news channel, for instance, reported that all malls in Kathmandu had collapsed, showing a video clip of a building supposedly in Surat, India collapsing.’ Indian audiences were also supporting Nepal’s twitter trending, and in return they also started another new trend with hash tag #DontComeBackIndianMedia. One of the tweets said, “Please don’t send them back to India, and send them to Mars.”
It further adds ‘Many Nepalese have noted that the insensitivity of the media had undone the good work of the Indian government in helping earthquake victims in Nepal. Indians soon joined in the conversation, asking Nepalese not to send the media back to India as they were tired of these journalists too. Ranjona Banerji, an Indian journalist based in Dehradun, wrote on Scroll. In, a website, “As soon as the Indian media heard of the earthquake, bad journalism began. It started on Saturday morning with many anchors finding it difficult to fathom that an earthquake cannot be covered like a cricket match or a film release.” Media coverage made it seem as though Indian aid to Nepal was part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promotional campaign.’
“We already have enough to deal due to the quakes we don’t need you to terrorize our nation anymore,” This tweet is enough to analyze that how much terrible and horror coverage were broadcasted by the Indian TV channels.
Thus, recent Nepal Quake might be the great lesson to the Indian TV channels regarding other foreign media too. India hopes to become a significant player in the international arena, but its media hasn’t helped. India’s parochialism is its biggest enemy as it vies for greatness. The incident in Nepal is a reminder that it’s really a time to grow up.
Media should always keep in mind that “Media is a power, if used carefully. Otherwise it could act like a weapon killing thousands of innocent people.” Similar is the case. Social media is also a form of media, though it has some differences in comparison to traditional media but it cannot stay away from the media. It should always give priority to the ethical standard which has made it different from traditional media. In the name of following some trends it should not go for popularity purpose that may degrade the value of credibility as slacktivism rather than activism. Activism is a very powerful word, so it should maintain it at any cost no matter which media you follow.
With the advent of computers and the internet, there were many skeptics who believed that email would never become an integral part of society. While hand-written letters are still considered a charming method of correspondence, in the United States and other developed countries, email is the primary source of communication. But the two cannot be fairly compared; each has its uses. People never thought banking could be done online or even that paper newspapers would be nearly extinct. We still have reporting, but the medium has changed. No one quite predicted the extent that these new methods would basically cancel out the old ones even the concept of activism as well.
Well people are on social media for very different reasons. Some initially joined Face book to keep in touch with family members in staying apart. It wasn’t until they joined Twitter that they saw the potential power of social media and started using it as a tool for activism. As an activist, they can view social media as an opportunity to spread the word about various causes at a faster rate, and to a bigger number of people, than through traditional methods.
The use of social media as an instrument for activism will follow, if not already is, the same trajectory. Social media is one of the most powerful forms of activism, and a catalyst for change.
Sometimes hash tag activism has also been criticized by some as a form of slacktivism. According to Chris Wallace, George Will, and Brit Hume of Fox News, they commented that hash tag activism was a “useless exercise in self esteem and that they do not know how adults stand there, facing a camera, and say, ‘Bring back our girls.’ Are those barbarians in the wilds of Nigeria supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, ‘Uh oh, Michelle Obama is very cross with us, we better change our behavior’?” The ease of hash tag activism has led to concerns that it might lead to overuse and public fatigue. But moreover it has brought positive impacts and consciousness in many respects in different parts of the world or better to say worldwide. So, when we avoid its some negative sides, it is used for positive purpose.
Activism is not a general thing or does not have simple meaning as well. It is very vague both in meaning and action from the history. But the social medias are trying their best to making it simple making every sorts of people involved and engaged. Besides these cases there also many other cases which have not become internationally popular as the above in hash tag trends but have compelled to advocate the plans policy at the national level like #पेन्सनविधयकपारितहुँदैन, #no५करोड #CAdebate and so on. The civil society is reflected in real sense when people of different sectors follow such social media activisms, discussions. Thus, with the development of new science and technology the concepts and trends are also changing. Everything may not be correct cent percent. So, following the positive sides, the trends should be followed. Then only change is possible in real sense neither we will only become servant of the technology.
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Links of face book and twitter that are used to study the case respectively: