Perhaps for the first time in Pakistan’s history, the general elections will also be monitored by citizen journalists.
Citizen journalists are basically ordinary citizens --- not professional journalists --- who gather information through reporting and disseminate it using a variety of sources, especially social and online media.
Pakvotes, a new project for monitoring elections, has trained a handful of citizen journalists and field monitors who will go to various parts of the country in the coming days to observe and report on the elections.
The training sessions in Islamabad included participants chosen from all provinces of Pakistan, especially those districts which either have a history of reported electoral fraud, or have been declared sensitive due to security concerns. These include Mastung, Quetta, Swat, Kohat, Sanghar, Jacobabad, Jhang, Rahimyar Khan and Gujrat among others.
Rehmatullah Shah, a participant from Mastung, said the training has opened up new avenues for him.
“I have learnt how to use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to report any incident during the elections in my area,” Shah said.
Pakvotes Partnership Manager Bushra Iqbal Hussain said she believed the trained citizen journalists and field monitors will be able to pick up and report a large number of stories which the national media might overlook.
The reports will be collated and mapped on the Pakvotes website, Hussain said.
The trained monitors have been provided smart phones to send texts, tweets, Facebook updates and upload videos and photos from their respective areas on and before elections.
Social media is also increasingly being used by political workers and leaders to campaign for elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2013.
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