Floods and selective silence in the blogosphere

Published: August 4, 2010

A woman carries a small bicycle outside her shack submerged by heavy flood. Both mainstream and online media have ignored her story and thousands of others who are stranded without food or shelter.

As I write these lines, the latest reports put the death toll from floods at some 1,100 with 1.5 million affectees and some 100,000 plagued by diseases like cholera. Most of those affected are stranded at remote areas, away from safety, with no food or shelter or clean water and with no access to medical facilities. The waters still rage on and more villages are vulnerable to disaster, risking yet many more thousands of lives.

However, I am appalled by the utterly careless, stolid response of the Pakistan media in general and the blogosphere in particular towards this issue. While there has been post after post on the issue of Airblue plane crash, which I fully endorse, there has been deafening silence on the flood disaster. I have been desperately running from blog to blog but I have barely seen a post about it on any of the major blogs of Pakistan. Not only that, casual bloggers do not seem to give a damn either – if at all they have given the disaster a passive mention of sympathy in one-liners or short briefers.

Is it a coincidence?

Are forums so overwhelmed with plane crash posts? Will the flood-posts be coming soon? I don’t think so. In this case our blogosphere, which is proudly cited as the chief tool of citizen journalism and free discourse, seems to be dragging along the same lines as the conventional media – those of sensational journalism. While the plane crash immediately caused hype and became the hot topic in media circles, millions of affectees are not worth a post!

There is a stark difference in our attitudes towards the two happenings – why the disparity? To me, the only thing that comes off as a sound reason is that the plane crash was a federal incident. It happened right in Islamabad, involved educated and well-off people and was immediately accessible by more or less every media outlet. The inundated lands, on the other hand, are remote, largely inaccessible right now, and simply, a boring thing to report. Who wants to watch lives lost in a flood anyway? In this land of pure, the value of human lives certainly seems to differ from area to area and class to class.

Another thing that struck me while trying to decipher this conundrum was that maybe Pakistan’s online population, which is mostly based in either Karachi or Punjab’s developed regions, is too far away from the issue – literally. Why bother when our immediate circles or areas are unaffected?

I admit this may be crude and perhaps I am being harsh. But after hungrily searching blogs for information and opinion on the floods and relief efforts, this is the only valid argument I could come to. I must note here that there have been certain blogs making very laudable initiatives such as organizing relief camps and enlisting relief agencies (like Secular Pakistan and LUBP). But the online Pakistani populace, at large, is silent at the flood disaster. And that is a big disappointment to me.

I think it’s time to revise the basics of our blog ethics. Before this facet of blog-activism also relapses into the conventional waters of traditional media, we need to pause for a moment and think about whether or not it is going in the direction we were aspiring for? We will have our answer.

You can donate Rs10 to help affectees by texting ‘D’ to 2471. To learn more about how to help visit D for Donate. 


Salman Latif

A blogger who blogs at salmanlatif.wordpress.com/ and tweets @salmanlateef

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://twitter.com/AreebahShahid Areebah Shahid

    The plane crash took 152 lives and most certainly it was a national tragedy; however that acknowledged, bomb blasts in khyber pakhtoonkhawaan for instance have often claimed more lives in one go and we hardly ever find a reaction so strong and lamenting so audible as we saw after the plane crash; speaking for myself, bomb blasts have stopped shaking me the way I felt disturbed by the news of the airliner..my point is that as a nation perhaps our defense mechanism has stopped responding to events that either do not happen in our backyard or those that aren’t a sort of ‘unusual’ happening! it isn’t the loss of precious lives that matter rather the novelty of the occurring is what inspires us enough to sit up, take notice and react!Recommend

  • Anum

    I think you need to take a look at the blogosphere again.There are some bloggers who have taken the initiative and have been writing about the flood disaster, even started flood relief campaign within their own capacity.Recommend

  • http://meer-mehernewspappar.blogspot.com. Meher Zaidi

    HELPPAKISTAN -FLOOD RELIEF on twitter since last two days. I have made this following for relief of flood victims. Many people are doing things on facebook and there is #pk floods too. Please join on twitter and link your own sites and blogs and videos for relief . Also blog post by save the children (link on my blog). Please gather all your energy in networking and spreading word for relief. UNICEF, UK online pound 30 donation for relief of flood victims. Spread the link and the word.Recommend

  • http://meer-mehernewspappar.blogspot.com. Meher Zaidi
  • http://roshnipk.com/blog Roshni

    Much needed blog post. Hope the popular bloggers act responsibly.Recommend