Tweet a strike -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Tweet a strike

By: Alhan Fakhr

“Everyone must subscribe. The government officials are trying to break our Facebook networks so that we may not convey our messages to our fellow doctors. Pages may be removed or blocked. Add or subscribe to this profile. It’s a must,” reads a Facebook page called ‘YDA Docs’.

In this age of social media, nothing is more than a click away. With revolutions and movements like the ‘Occupy Wall Street Movement’ being planned over social networking websites like Facebook, and with Youtube serving as a tool for the revolutionaries to communicate with the outside world during ‘The Egyptian Revolution’, it is safe to say that it only takes a few seconds to communicate with millions around the globe.

Such is the story of the recent Young Doctors’ Movement, which was organised through widespread social media campaigns over Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, text messages (SMS) and the much popular Blackberry Messenger.

“Various junior doctors were assigned the task of communicating to other members of the association via text messages and Facebook. The task of communication was not only limited to the executive members and college representatives. While most of the executive members and representatives faced police lockdowns, members of the Young Doctors Association’s student wings as well as those prospective members pursuing degrees in medicine abroad were responsible for updating our pages,” explains Dr. Nasir Abbas, spokesperson for the Young Doctors Association, Punjab.

The YDA claims that its network is spread across every medical institution in Punjab. “Dear All. From tomorrow onwards, we are going to start a series of protests on different days in different teaching hospitals of Lahore,” said a text message and Facebook wall post on June 24, 2012, detailing the protest plan.

Such text messages, Facebook and Twitter posts are circulated and updated on a regular basis by the members of the Young Doctors Association to keep every member of the movement informed.

When asked how the receivers of such text messages and posts responded, Abdullah Abbasi, a senior at the Rawalpindi Medical College and a member of the Young Doctors Association’s student wing, says: “It was very simple to get everyone together once we received these alerts. The YDA members had to send texts to one person in every ward and one class representative in every class. All wards and classes were officially divided into various clinical batches as per their clinical rotation in various departments. So the representative in that ward or class would send the text to the batch representative and the batch representative would then send it to the whole batch. It was very simple and easy since everyone had to inform 15-20 people.”

Abbasi adds that the response to such messages and posts was always overwhelming. He says: “The reason as to why everyone responded promptly and showed up at each procession was because all of us believe that we were being treated unfairly. The government sent us a written notice last year promising us a proper service structure. However, we are still awaiting such a reform.”

The YDA has divided its social media campaign into several chapters. They have several groups and Facebook pages operated by various members of the hierarchy. While Closed Groups and Profiles are specifically operated to inform the young doctors about various protests, the ‘Young Doctors Association (YDA)’ page is liked by over 11,000 Facebook users all of whom are not members of the medical fraternity. This page is specifically designed to update the followers about the developments made during the ongoing doctor’s movement. Furthermore, every medical institution has its own Facebook group and page.

The role of the social media isn’t only limited to communication during movements like that of the Young Doctors Association. Social groups, politicians and media personalities prefer using networking websites to voice their opinions.

Abbasi adds: “We were severely criticized on television channels, which reported false information fed by government authorities. Our presence on Facebook and Twitter allowed us to bounce back and spread our version of the story to the people.”

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