Published on 16 May 2012 at 08:42
Mass media outlets have grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade in Afghanistan and more and more Afghans are quickly gaining access to popular social media, namely via Facebook and Twitter.
In addition to ordinary users, a number of politicians and lawmakers from the National Assembly use Facebook. They share useful information about current political events; post their comments and share results from the National Assembly’s general sessions; and they receive different comments on their posts from constituents. Lawmakers are increasingly identifying Facebook as a useful tool to open up dialogue among their advocates as well as their opponents.
The use of social media is unarguably becoming a cornerstone of communication all over the globe. Most notably, social media played a key role in facilitating public revolutions which brought down the long-standing dictatorships in North Africa and the Middle East.
At this very moment, Facebook and Twitter are being used as mass communication tools to challenge Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Syria. The effective use of the Facebook has frightened many regimes in that region.
At this very moment, Facebook and Twitter are being used as mass communication tools to challenge Bashar Al Assad’s regime in Syria. The effective use of the Facebook has frightened many regimes in that region. Many leaders have decided to limit or even close Facebook in order to prevent public resistance.
On the other hand, politicians worldwide are unlocking the potential of social media to lessen the gap between policy decision making and citizens, and to find inventive ways to connect with constituents. Now it seems Afghanistan’s leaders are ready to join this trend and realize the benefits of social media communication where they look for supporters and advocators for their decisions and policies.
The use of any modern technology, however, including Facebook and other social media is new in Afghanistan. And, according to Tolo News, it’s estimated that only 4 percent of Afghans even have access to the Internet. So, social media as a tool has not yet been perfected in the country and is still far from becoming the standard. Nonetheless, the users, even members of the National Assembly post and share useful and valuable information.
A growing handful of lawmakers are active on Facebook. Dr. Mahiudin Mehdi from Baghlan Province, Naheed Farid and Ahmad Behzad from Herat Province, Aref Rahman of Ghazni Province, Farhad Azimi from Balkh Province, Dr. Nelofar Ibrahimi of Badakhshan Province, and Humira Ayubi from Farah Province, to name a few, are avid Facebook users.
Regarding the April 15 Taliban attacks on Kabul city, Naheed Farid writes in her profile. “We witnessed several attacks carried out by those with whom the government wants to negotiate. This group obviously sends messages of war, but it seems the government peace lovers want to cross the one-way peace path alone. The peace, which takes the lives and properties of people, is no longer acceptable. I am wondering with whom we negotiate: the Quetta Shura, the Haqani Terrorist Network or Hezb-e-Islami?”
Naheed: “Facebook is an appropriate way in connecting people and the youth are more interested in using it. I use Facebook to contact my friends and advocates.”
Also in response to the attacks in Kabul, Dr. Mehdi posted about the national security forces: “…In turn, I congratulate the courage and sacrifice of our national security forces in handling these events. I share my condolences and sympathies with families of all the soldiers who lost lives in those attacks and congratulate their martyrdom to their family and all people of Afghanistan.”
Dr. Nelofar Ibrahimi writes: “The Afghan-US Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed by presidents of both countries (U.S. and Afghanistan). This agreement will be soon sent to the National Assembly for legislature review. Undoubtedly, all the lawmakers will carefully discuss on the provisions of the agreement…”
Facebook: an appropriate way to contact voters
Naheed Farid argues Facebook is an appropriate forum for communicating social and political activities, particularly to mobilize youth. “I am the representative of youth in the National Assembly,” she said. “Facebook is an appropriate way in connecting people and the youth are more interested in using it. I use Facebook to contact my friends and advocates.”
While the rest of us “ordinary citizens” use Facebook to connect family and friends, lawmakers and other politicians are finding Facebook an invaluable tool to share views and opinions with their advocates. They even share information and communicate on issues which would not otherwise be introduced officially in the National Assembly or reported in the media.
Nelofar Ibrahimi: “Facebook is one of the admirable phenomena in modern society and plays a key role in contacting people and providing more facilities for its users."
“I was unable to put several issues in the National Assembly’s working agenda to discuss. I did not even have time to present those through the media. I posted those issues in my Facebook account to discuss with my friends and advocates,” Naheed said. “The results of such discussions are very useful and play key role in making decisions on social and political activities.”
Nelofar Ibrahimi says, “Facebook is one of the admirable phenomena in modern society and plays a key role in contacting people and providing more facilities for its users. Facebook is a personal media for every user. As a representative of the people, I am in direct contact with my people through Facebook and listen to their demands and suggestions.”
Compared to Twitter, Facebook is more widely used in Afghanistan. While a growing number of lawmakers use Facebook, only a few of them use Twitter.
But, not unlike Facebook, Twitter is also gaining the favor of politicians, academics and journalists worldwide to share useful and important information.
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