Mainstream media in Pakistan have been turning to citizen journalism websites as they try to report on the floods devastating parts of the country and neighbouring India and Afghanistan.

One such platform called Citizens Eye, a global outlet for citizen journalism founded by Mudassar Khan in Pakistan itself, has seen a huge surge in activity from local people filing news updates from the ground.

Mudassar KhanSpeaking to Journalism.co.uk, Khan said his reporters are offering "grassroots" news that the mainstream media, mostly limited to 'helicopter journalism', cannot provide

"Because of infrastructure losses, many journalists could not reach such places, whereas because we have citizen journalists registered from all parts of the country, we received grassroots news and reports," he said.

The site was even contacted by two newspapers and a television channel looking for the contact details of contributors to use as sources.

"After getting permission from two of our citizen journalists from these areas, we provided mainstream media with contact information so they can interview them for beepers, eyewitness accounts etc," he said. "So in this context, we as a citizen journalism body became the source of news for mainstream media."

He added that platforms such as Citizen Eye were able to offer a number of different angles to coverage of the tragedy.

"Citizen journalists are more vocal whereas professional journalists are more resourceful," he said. "Similarly, as governments typically believe more on mainstream media here in Pakistan, they use them for their image building as well. So newspapers and TV channels are giving government's perspective dominantly. At the same time, very few mainstream media channels and newspapers are also giving neutral perspectives."

Reports on the site include an account by Said Mahmood, an engineer who works for an international aid agency in the Kohistan district, one of the worst hit areas. He reported from the scene using the internet connection on his mobile phone and even sent through photographs when he himself was trapped.


View Larger Map
Kohistan District, Pakistan

"Most of the community members told us that [the] flood has taken away each and every thing from us," he writes in his report. "We lost our houses, property, daily usage items, our shops, livestock and timber. We don’t have accessibility to other areas due to paved roads and fully damaged bridges. We have shortage of food items and in [the] coming few days it will be completely finished. We don’t have shelter to stay for the night and some of us went to other union councils to live with their relatives, some are living in the open places.

"Before the floods we have MHPs, water mills but now we lost these things. We don’t have clean drinking water, shelters or tents and food stuff. Our economy went to zero due to the flood and now we don’t have any thing to do at this survival stage."

As the flood continues to wreak havoc through the country, with at least 1,500 deaths already believed to have been caused by the disaster, the site has also become a vital point of information for members of the public.

“We have even received emails from people asking about where can we give our donations etc and we told them about government relief programs and NGOs,” he added.

Other sites have been aggregating content, such as Chowrangi.com, which has constructed a flood relief resources page incorporating social media and news items from across the internet.

"Social media enables us to reach to the masses and places where mainstream media is usually not looking for news items," founder Kashif Aziz told Journalism.co.uk. "Having said that, it is not easy to filter signals from all that 'social noise', and requires time and effort."

The BBC is also using eye-witness accounts from people on the ground to update their coverage while Youtube has been compiling footage sent in by local people on their 'citizentube' channel, such as the video below posted by Saminunocha.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).

blog comments powered by Disqus