Social media’s surge reshaping journalism landscape in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
PESHAWAR – Social media’s rapid rise is having a profound impact on the journalism landscape in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), bringing about significant changes, challenges, and opportunities for media organizations and citizens alike.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and others have transformed ordinary citizens into citizen journalists, equipped with smartphones and real-time connectivity. This transformation has empowered individuals in KP to play a pivotal role in reporting local news stories that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. From covering human interest stories to reporting natural disasters and political events, citizen journalists have emerged as invaluable sources of information, contributing to a more inclusive and diverse media landscape
However, the surge of social media in journalism is not without its challenges. The Freedom Network Pakistan Press Freedom Report 2021-2022 highlighted a total of 86 violations against media practitioners during the review period, with digital journalists being among the primary targets.
One notable case occurred on March 29, 2023, when Asadullah, a video journalist working for the Tribal News Network (TNN), was detained by the police in Peshawar. TNN alleged that his arrest was unlawful, without due legal procedure, and he was reportedly subjected to torture without any evidence of committing a crime before being released.
To address the challenges posed by social media, the Pakistan government introduced the “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards) Rules, 2021” under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016. These rules require social media companies to register with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and establish offices in the country within three months.
The rules also mandate that social media companies and service providers avoid hosting, displaying, uploading, publishing, transmitting, updating, or sharing any online content that violates local laws, particularly those related to terrorism, hate speech, pornography, incitement to violence, and national security. However, these rules have raised concerns about potential restrictions on freedom of expression and the implications for digital media users and journalists.
Sabookh Syed, President of the Digital Media Alliance of Pakistan, pointed out that security is a significant concern for digital media professionals, especially for smaller media platforms lacking strong audience bases. Their coverage may face backlash if it goes against certain interests. Additionally, the lack of resources and professional training in independent news operations can hinder their ability to deliver optimal and credible journalism.
On the positive side, social media platforms have become the primary source of breaking news in KP, with Twitter emerging as the go-to platform for journalists to share unfolding events in real-time. This immediate access to information has enabled mainstream news outlets to stay on top of current developments and provide timely updates to their audiences. Furthermore, interaction with the audience has been revolutionized, as journalists and media organizations can now directly engage with their readers and viewers, creating a two-way conversation and fostering a sense of community and connection.
Fatima Rehaman, a Digital Media User from the Political Science Department at the University of Peshawar, emphasized that social media platforms have become the primary source of breaking news in KP. Twitter, in particular, has emerged as the go-to platform for journalists to share unfolding events as they happen. This immediate access to information has enabled mainstream news outlets to stay on top of current developments and deliver timely updates to their audiences. The interaction with the audience has also been revolutionized, as journalists and media organizations can now directly engage with their readers and viewers, creating a two-way conversation.
However, the surge of social media has also brought challenges related to misinformation and disinformation. Unverified or false news stories can quickly go viral, causing confusion and panic among the public. To counter the spread of misinformation, verifying the authenticity of news on social media has become a crucial responsibility for mainstream journalists in KP.
The impact of social media has not only affected journalism but also the business models of traditional media outlets in KP. As audiences increasingly turn to free sources on social media, many mainstream media organizations have faced challenges in maintaining advertising revenues and subscription rates. To remain competitive, media outlets are now focusing on enhancing their digital presence and developing innovative content strategies. Even government-run radio in KP has embraced digital platforms and runs live streaming on Facebook pages.
Muhammad Daud Khan, a YouTuber, pointed out that social media platforms have also influenced the news agenda in the region. Certain stories that gain heightened attention on social media may lead to potential bias towards sensationalism or polarizing topics. This presents a challenge for news editors in striking a balance between covering news that resonates with their audience and providing in-depth, context-driven reporting.
Amid the rapidly changing media landscape, journalists in KP are adapting to the digital age. Newsrooms are embracing social media as a tool for sourcing stories, gathering leads, and reaching wider audiences. However, ethical considerations and a commitment to factual reporting remain paramount as journalists navigate the fast-paced and sometimes unpredictable world of social media.
Irfan Musazai, General Secretary of the Peshawar Press Club, emphasized the significance of addressing digital media challenges proactively. He underscored the unique opportunities that the evolving journalism landscape in KP offers for media professionals and citizens to work together, fostering a more informed and engaged society. To address the challenges effectively, media organizations and journalists must continue to uphold ethical standards, prioritize fact-checking, and maintain transparency in their reporting.
As social media platforms continue to evolve, adapting to the changing landscape while preserving the essence of responsible journalism will be critical to maintaining a vibrant and credible media ecosystem in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Moreover, authorities, including the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), must take proactive measures to protect journalists and media professionals from digital harassment and threats. Promptly investigating cases of digital attacks on journalists and holding the perpetrators accountable under the provisions of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) law is essential to ensure press freedom and media safety in the region.
By: Asad Zia
Source: Peshawar Today