Naureen Aqueel

Archive for June 2009

An edited version of this article was published in CIO Pakistan magazine, July 2009.

Twitter has provided a new forum in cyberspace to draw attention to a cause or event. The most recent case in point relating to Pakistan was the Twenty20 World Cup Finals when Pakistan Cricket made it to the trending topics on Twitter, the term used to describe the ten most talked about topics on the network.

In a patriotic attempt to draw attention to Pakistan to uplift the morale of Pakistanis and make a global impact, a group of digital activists launched an e-rally to support their national team in the Twenty20 finals. To make a topic a trending topic enough people must mention a certain keyword in their tweets enough times for it to feature on the Twitter home page trending topics.

By launching an e-rally across cyberspace motivating people to include the hashtag “#PakCricket” in their tweets, this community of digital activists was able to bring Pakistan Cricket on the list of the 10 most discussed topics on Twitter. Pakistan Cricket drew the attention of millions of people across the world by reaching their Twitter home pages. It was truly a reflection of the power of online activism.

Twitter has become a forum for cyber activism of sorts. Not only does it help draw attention to a certain issue, it also helps keep people informed about happenings within their own city and on their own streets! Examples of live twitter updates at times of crisis and violence in the city abound. Twitter has also become one of the most popular mediums for distributing information about protests. Iran is a particular case in point. When US State Department asked Twitter to delay a scheduled maintenance so that the line of communication between Iran and the rest of the world would remain open and the State Department could follow Iran election news, the world saw how much power a social network like Twitter could wield.

Twitter has also become a vital source for information on trends, happenings and opinions for the mainstream news media. In fact, courtesy its speed and always-on nature, Twitter has become a tool for reporters to source breaking news. One example of Twitter breaking news is when Twitter broke the news of a small earthquake in Mexico in 2007. Besides that, Twitter has been the basis of a steady stream of breaking news on Iran in present times, as netizens try to waiver the strict media restrictions in the country.

Twitter has pretty much become a revolution in communication as it steps up to fill gaps where the traditional media is unable to function.

Published in The News, You magazine, June 2, 2009.

Hepatitis can turn into a very deadly disease if not taken care of in it’s initial stages. Each year many fall sick due to hepatitis. The disease affects an estimated 12 million people, which means that every sixth or seventh person in the population may be suffering from it. However, with greater awareness the number of people who die is decreasing each year.

Taking in view the importance of the role of the media in spreading awareness, the final year students of the Development Support Communication course at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Karachi organised a seminar titled “Hepatitis: What We Need To Know…” The event was an attempt to inform people about the disease and to examine the media’s role in helping people understand how it can affect their lives. Organised under the aegis of the Stivya Youth Interactive Forum, managed by the Creative Groove, the advertising and PR wing of the Department of Mass Communication, it was a well-attended event.

The seminar raised the issue of the essential link between doctors and media. Doctors have the knowledge about the disease and the media has the power to disseminate that knowlege. The speakers at the event suggested that doctors and media should collaborate in their efforts to battle life threatening ailments. Mrs Samina Qureshi, the Event Incharge, highlighted the aims and objectives of the seminar which sought to provide useful information about Hepatitis. Basically the mode of transmission of the disease includes transfusion of infected blood, sexual contact, unsafe injections, unhygienic intrusive practices of barbers and beauty parlours, hemodialysis services, surgical and dental procedures, needle stick injury, acupuncture, ear and nose piercing and shared tooth brushes etcetera. It is important to note that the disease however, is not spread by social interaction like shaking hands and eating together.

In his key note speech by Dr. Agha Umer Draz, District Coordinator and Master Trainer for Prime Minister’s Programme for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis, spoke about the main aims of his programme. It seeks to achieve 50 per cent reduction in Hepatitis by the year 2010 by establishing screening and diagnostic centres, providing counselling and treatment facilities along with drugs for the patients and vaccinations against the disease in high-risk population areas.

The next half of the seminar was addressed by media professionals who spoke about the part the media is playing in spreading awareness about Hepatitis. Ms. Seema Raza, Senior producer at a popular radio station, highlighted the contribution the radio industry in spreading awareness regarding Hepatitis.

A documentary was also prepared by the students of the DSC course; the short film highlighted the state of Hepatitis patients in the different hospitals of the city of Karachi. It also pointed out the different steps that need to be taken to improve the state of these patients. The documentary also tackled the questions of how the average individual can avoid getting infected.

The discussion ended with Ms. Qureshi launching the “Talent Shop,” an exhibition to be held on 12th August, 2009 to commemorate International Youth Day. She announced that the exhibition will provide a window of opportunity to the youth to showcase their creative skills and talents.

The seminar proved successful in the sense that it managed to create awareness about Hepatitis among the youth and was able to stir debate about the role of the various agencies – the media, the government and doctors – in spreading awareness about health-related issue in our society.

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June 2009