KARACHI – A two-day fair, ‘Pak-India Social Media Mela’ organised by the US Consulate in Karachi and Lahore in collaboration with an NGO, Peace Niche, ended here on Saturday with a positive note calling for effective use of medium of technology for the marginalised people.

Speakers from India and Pakistan talked on a host of issues from Internet censorship and its economy as well as dark side of the Internet to social media as tool of raising voice for the marginalised people.

Panelists, including Sana Saleem, Shahzad Ahemd and Sher Ali, talked on the issue of censorship, regulations and control in the Internet economy.

They opined that here in Pakistan, the social media especially, facebook and twitter, had been banned on the pretext of religion or national security. The banning of the internet sites for one day also cause huge financial losses to online business firms.

They also underlined the need to initiate an effective effort by the civil society and internet users against any government’s step of banning the Internet. They also cited the examples of Saudi Arabia and other countries, where social media was restricted due to the fear of a revolution like those of Tunisia and Egypt.

The panelists, including Sana Saleem, Nabiha Mehar Shaikh, Jehan Ara and Shiraz Hassan of Pakistan and Sabhah Haji from Indian Kashmir, talked on the bullying as dark side of the Internet. They cited some cases in which fake IDs were made on the social media sites, where people had posted addresses and pictures of female colleagues were posted. The experts advised parents to pay attention on their kids as they might open wrong sites. Jehan Ara of ‘Bolo Bhee’ blog said that the government was planning a law to control the cyber crime, but it actually likely to be used against the social media in future.

She said that civil society and social media users should come forward and share their input on the issue. Titled ‘connecting with the world in their own voice: bridging the mainstream media gap’, was a great session on social media’s role in helping marginalized communities such as Hazara Shias & Ahmadis held in the fair.

Irfan Ali of Hazara from Balochistan shared how they were using the social media to raise their voices against the killings of ‘Shia Hazaras’ in the Balochistan province.  Imran Jattala, who took part through Skype in the session, highlighted the successes of social media in his areas which compelled the authorities to resolve their problems. Similarly, Anthony Pemal, a Christian activist of Pakistan highlighted the woes of religious minorities especially after killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Minority affairs’ minister Shahbaz Khan.

Raheel and Sabhah Haji from Indian Kashmir also talked about the miseries of the Kashmiries, saying that the human rights violations issues do not come in the mainstream media due to security reasons.

Sanjay Rajoura from India in his stand up comedy, said that Pakistan and India’s ‘national obsession’ is ‘settle kab ho rahey ho’ (mean getting married).

Through his comic, he talked about cricket, politics, police and other issues which are common in both countries.

‘We should accept the reality that India and Pakistan are two separate countries, so they should live as good neghbours and soft the visa regime.

Besides, Ali Dayan of Human Rights Watch through skype talked on the human rights and social media. Other topics came under discussion in different sessions.