25 July 2012 - Social media is becoming an intrinsic part of urban life in Afghanistan and Afghan youth are increasingly using social websites and weblogs on the internet for wider communications and debates on all kinds of social and political issues.
According to the Ministry of Communications and Technology, 30 per cent of the Afghan population is using internet. Over 300,000 Afghans are regular users of social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and weblogs.
Eighty per cent of the social media users are between 15 to 40 years of age while another 10 per cent is below 15 years and above 40 years of age.
This wave of technological development has not only increased the pace of communications but also encouraged freedom of speech to a surprising level.
“The social media has broken the taboo and helps implement the freedom of speech in its real sense,” said Abdul Mujeeb Khalwatgar, Executive Director of theNai - Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan.
Given its importance in changing peoples’ perception, this week - from 22 to 26 July - is being celebrated as “Social Media Week” in Afghanistan.
The Nai is planning to submit a formal request to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to recognize the week as “Social Media Week” globally.
In addition, the media advocacy group has also submitted a formal request to the Ministry of Information and Culture to mark the week in its annual calendar of the events as “Social Media Week”.
“Ignoring the importance of social media would be a big blow to the future technological advancement of the Afghan society. Its promotion is essential for establishment of a public monitoring system to check the performance of rulers and their policies on the basis of national interest,” said Khalwatgar.
During the course of “Social Media Week”, training sessions are being organized for general public regarding the usage and importance of social websites on the internet.
For the first time, an exhibition of “Facebook Posts” was organized recently in Kabul, and the winner of the “best” Facebook post received a prize.
Another lecture session was held for the members of journalists’ association and youth groups. The participants were made familiar with the importance of social media and their usage.
Some parliamentarians have also been invited to share their experience using social media for election campaigning and making public perceptions around national issues.
Generally, social media is however widely considered “unreliable and unauthentic” for lack of evidence in the information that gets shared through it.
“Unauthentic reporting in the social media is a global issue, however it has boosted the analytical capacity of the public to distinguish between wrong and right information,” said Mr Khalwatgar.