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Regulation to curb militancy in social media

Social media is an emerging territory where citizens are communicating and they have access to alternative sources of information such as blogs, online search engines and social networking sitess. The social media offers a wide array of opportunities of information exchange activities for citizens. Contrary to the mainstream media outlets, the social media offers the chance to connect and interact easily with the powerful authorities and express your opinion in more open and casual manner.

Since the information communication technology (ICT) progresses, the numbers of users increase dramatically and many experts are saying that the new internet based media is the new newsroom.

Many people in Pakistan believe that the recent Arab Spring is directly due to the social media. And, now, political parties using social networking for reaching out to the people. It is believed by some political experts that the era of online political campaign is coming and that the internet based media could play an important role in the next election turnout.

However, the Internet based media also has a negative side: As the new media is being used by terrorists organizations to convey their message and to promote their extremist agenda and violence based ideology. They seek to have their voices heard on a platform that extends to a wide audience. In the past few years the usage of the social media as a tool to promote their ideology has been maximized. In the recent years, they have also shifted their recruitment to the internet based media to attract members across borders and gather intelligence, according to a new study.

The social media has provided a vehicle for spreading of organization’s agendas and messages much more easily than before. As a vital weapon it’s very well suited for the purpose of propaganda, through this they can reach a large audience in a matter of seconds. Now, if a militant leader wants to communicate with the world or followers, it can be done very easily, as he can record, upload and then tweet while keeping location confidential. The banned terrorist organizations have adapted innovative 21st century information and communication technologies and the associated infrastructure to maximize the psychological impact of the their operations and communication through the use of the social media. Various banned outfits in Pakistan continue to use the social media with their organization’s trade marks and names despite a government directives.

Advisor to the Minister on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik in his speech at Pak-India social media highlights the dangerous link between the social media and banned terrorists outfits.

The following are excerpts from his speech:

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik has said that Pakistan and India are both victims of cyber crime. He said the social media has a number of positive and negative aspects but following the path of ethics this forum of media can bring revolutionary changes in this globalize world. He emphasized that the positive aspects must be highlighted on the social media and the pollution spread through social media could be done away with through self-accountability.

Talking to representatives of Pak-India social media Malik said that if the IT specialists of the two countries had carried out their obligations rightly incident like Mumbai attack could had been averted. He said that terrorists were using the internet for communication claiming that if Internet Service Providers (ISP) were wiser and had certain tools, the Mumbai attacks would not have taken place. As Terrorists kept using internet and social media for many days during the Mumbai attacks, he added.

He said that ill will was being spread through the social media and this forum should keep morality in mind. The social media should be brought under the ambit of law, Rehman underlined.

Mr. Malik said that to foil militants’ and terrorists designs they must be stopped from using social media.

Militants on both sides of the border want to fuel a war between Pakistan and India, he said. However, social media could play its role to help eradicate the atmosphere of hatred and bias between Pakistan and India, he added.

Peace in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India is imperative for the global peace, he added.

Senior Advisor also stressed on the need of Pakistan and India jointly eradicating such mutual problems as terrorism and poverty.

He accused that banned outfits and militant organizations enjoy the support of Punjab government which also use them in election campaign.

Replying to a question Mr. Malik said that minorities enjoy equal rights in Pakistan; however, none could be allowed religious militancy, adding that no website of the minorities has been closed in Pakistan.

The Advisor to the Prime Minister on Interior Malik became a hero for the social media when he stepped in to help the Indian delegates visiting the Mela get their visas in time, he announced to organize a high level social media forum in Islamabad sponsored by the Ministry of interior.

Ironically, instead of banning and discouraging militant websites, Pakistan government has recently banned two pro-rights websites belonging to Pakistan’s Ahamdi and Shia communities. Only two days ago, ShiaKilling.com, a website that monitors and publishes data on Shia genocide and persecution in Pakistan was blocked. A few days before that, Al Islam, an Ahmadiyya community website was blocked. Compare this to various websites run by banned Jihadi-sectarian parties which are freely accessible in Pakistan, and their leaders freely spew hate speech against fellow Pakistanis on websites as well as in Pakistani streets.

Thus, the question is: what can and should be done, practically, to curb the dangerous link between the banned terrorist outfits and the social media? Strict regulations are required to control the use of all forms of social media by the banned groups. What we need to realize is that militancy will spread if banned outfits continue to use the social media in this style. Today, Pakistan is facing colossal challenges; these include terrorism‚ religious extremism‚ threat to democratic setup from undemocratic/extremists forces. And innocent pakistani people are dying of terrorism.

Pakistan Peoples Party has traditonally been against fundamentalism, sectarianism and terrorism. It clearly and critically described causes and cures of terrorism in it’s election 2008 manifesto, that democracy never wages terrorism, dismantle militant groups that take hostages and impose their writ through force and terrorism and militancy will be vigorously confronted.

Mr. Rehman Malik, following the party policy claims to be determined to fight terrorism and all forms of extremism. However some of his ministry’s actions so far are giving opposite signals to Pakistan’s persecuted communities.

In a modern democratic world, it doesn’t mean one can get away with ‘hate speech’ and ‘terrorist message’ as it’s checked by laws and regulations. The same principle applies to the social media. We believe in a media (whether electronic or social) that is responsible and free from prejudice, bigotry and hate material.

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Junaid Qaiser

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