Role of The Social Media in Eradicating Corruption in Pakistan


There is a common perception that Corruption is rampant in all realms of public service in Pakistan.  The unbridled freedom accorded to the mass media, especially the electronic media in the last decade has further exacerbated this feeling amongst the masses.  A number of talk shows aired during prime time, every day, highlight stories of malpractices and graft involving those in power. Invariably these talk shows end up becoming mud-slinging bouts where allegations and counter-allegations are exchanged and anchors thrive on the antagonism.  Print media traditionally regarded the fourth estate as taken a back seat despite the fact that it historically served as a corruption watchdog.   In recent times the print media has waned in view of the upsurge of electronic media in the country. It however occasionally makes its presence felt by publishing stories that hinge on corruption in society.    There is no denying the fact that a vibrant Media does have the potential to serve as a check on governments and engage the public in the process of evaluation and assessment of government efficiency.  However, media-driven by its own self-righteous politico-economic agenda may end up sensationalizing every piece of information in order to create a feeling of chaos and confusion in a country.

Despite the negative manifestations pointed out above the role of the media is pivotal in sponsoring better governance and curbing corruption. It not only enhances public awareness of the causes, and consequences of corruption but also highlights the incidences of malpractices in a given society.  This makes it obligatory for those who wish to fight corruption to exploit the potential of mass media in an effective, efficient, and judicious manner. They need to proactively carry out concerted, well-orchestrated efforts while using new techniques and tools available, to contain the menace of corruption.  Here, it is not out of place to mention that the first step towards a potentially effective anti-corruption approach is to understand the rules. One needs to be cognizant of the fact of whether corruption is the exception or the norm in a given society?  In case of corruption is an exception,  the anti-corruption activists may resort to an authoritarian plan aimed at strengthening the capacity of the government to promulgate and enforce the laws governing the conduct of the key players. However, if corruption is considered a norm, they need to adopt a democratization strategy to identify those who suffer from rampant corruption and are encouraged to express their grievances and consequently demand change in the rules of the game. Through this exercise, one may hope that we can upset the balance that often characterizes corrupt societies. Again media can play a vital role in improving transparency in society.  Here the social media can play a key role by sensitizing the people through investigative journalism. This would not only instill fear among the corrupt but would also propel ordinary people to fight corruption.

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Orkut are becoming potent tools to advance the movement against corruption and bring about positive change in societies. In a national survey among youth in India, almost 76 percent of young people believe that social media empowers them to make a difference in the world we live in.

Literature Review

A 2010 report by ‘Technology for Transparency’ suggests that the “so-called fifth estate, or networked citizen media platforms that rely on the volunteer contributions of citizens can not only fill the role of watchdog but also enhance the rate and scope of the investigation once provided by professional journalists” (Brinkerhoff, 2000). Similarly, a research project undertaken by the scholars at the London School of Economics (2011) in collaboration with Transparency International focused on documenting evidence substantiating the effective role of social media in exposing and curbing corruption.  From the appreciation of material available on the internet, it transpired that these new-fangled avenues are being utilized in India by the internet and mobile phone users to demand transparency and making malpractices risky for public and private sector actors. It was however felt that no such work has been carried out to highlight the effectiveness of social media in eradicating corruption in Pakistan

Against this backdrop, this study seeks to research and analyze how individuals, civil society organizations, businesses, and media can utilize the social media tools in Pakistan towards exposing and consequently curbing the incidence and enormity of corruption pervading our society.

Scheme.  This report is divided into six sections. First, the methodology used to compile this report is presented. This is followed by a theoretical framework that discusses the motivations behind social movements, anti-corruption efforts and their potential links to social media across the globe. Third, the report explores innovative ways in which civil society is using social media to battle corruption in identified issue areas. Fourth, the report discusses the implications of the Struggle waged through social media towards eradicating corruption in Pakistan. The sixth and final section puts forth recommendations for a realistic and effective anti-corruption strategy through the mobilization of social media technologies and tools.

Methodology.  The Internet offers a wealth of information on an exceptionally broad range of civil society initiatives that have successfully incorporated social media technologies in their work. A thorough analysis of relevant interventions was conducted to better understand the concept of new technologies, vernacular, past and present of civil society, and the social media landscape. Reviews of existing initiatives have been qualitative, focusing on the important elements of the key projects instead of measuring the value simply by the number of initiatives in a specific sector. In the later part, the analysis was carried out of the efforts undertaken by the Social media activists to launch anti-corruption campaigns in Pakistan.

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