How social media enhances Kurdish democracy

The Kurds have increasingly used various networking sites to communicate their grievances with local governing bodies

Ruwayda Mustafah
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Social networking sites have a proven impact on policymakers, which can either be positive or negative. The Kurds, classed as the world’s largest transnational stateless people have increasingly used various networking sites to communicate their grievances with local governing bodies, and highlight human rights violations.

More than often, mainstream outlets are not framing the discourse, but are being framed on the basis of what social networking users are discussing, debating or highlighting. Despite ‘clickbait’ articles, mainstream news agencies can only stay relevant through highlighting issues relevant to users from social networking sites.

Consequently, our understanding of political engagement has radically changed because we do not need to rely on traditional forms of communication to have an impact or influence in the decision-making process. However, in Kurdistan Region mainstream media outlets have been criticized because they are all either funded by the state or political parties. This becomes troubling when the voices of the public and their grievances are used as tools of manipulation by political-party owned news agencies.

Despite claims of independence, the various media outlets in Kurdistan Region are not independent, but shaped by political party leniency and funding. This hinders efforts towards media democratization, making the current media outlets less inclusive and progressive.

The huge vacuum of independent media reporting has led to a rise of online bloggers, critics and microblogging personalities in the region, which furthers democratic politics as increased numbers of internet-users in the region access various platforms to receive news.

One of the more prominent means of enhancing democracy in the region is the increased availability and access to the Internet. Social networking sites such as Twitter and particularly Facebook have led to greater interconnectedness amongst like-minded people. These networking sites allow Kurdish users to mobilize, campaign and increasingly provides them with a platform to weigh political decisions and policies of respective politicians without fearing censorship.

Media attention is crucial to changing government policies, but when media agencies are not reporting in the interests of the public, social networking sites can be used to question the status quo.

The Kurdish public are not just hungry for accurate news, but they’re eager to have their voices represented accurately, and in the interests of the region. As we progress towards a more inclusive democracy in Kurdistan Region, undoubtedly we will see greater calls for transparency and the formation of more robust news agencies.

As a result of greater access to the Internet, Social media has enhanced Kurdish democracy because it provides locals with unhindered access to a wide range of news, and platforms. It bypasses political-party funded news agencies, and helps create more diversity of opinions. If we can continue in this vein to accurately highlight issues relevant to the region, micro bloggers and activists will be able to have greater influence in the decision-making process.

New monitoring bodies such as allows Kurds to report instances of online censorship. This provides not only accountability, but also transparency in a region where the notion of transparency seems idealistic. As we continue towards establishing a democratic system of accountability, we have to work on improving public access to information, and their ability to communicate their grievances without being manipulated to score political party jibes.

This is why social media, a relatively new phenomenon in the region is crucial towards enhancing democracy. We are reaching a stage where democratization of media can become a possibility, and in the years to come, we will not be shackled by news agencies in the region that merely serve the interests of political parties.

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