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“It is the social media outlets that have forged forward in protecting freedom… At the end of the day, without democracy, a politician is just that guy over there with a very loud voice”

Pakistan has, for many years, had a special relationship with Turkey. Always amongst the first-responders providing assistance to Pakistan over the years, Turkey’s exemplary support was evident after the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods that had devastated large areas of Pakistan. When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Pakistan a year ago, Nawaz Sharif praised Erdogan’s policies in enacting reforms to the economy, as well as its democracy.

It is that democracy that has been put into sharp focus during demonstrations in Istanbul’s Taksim Square this past week. And Turkey’s Prime Minister is quite annoyed at the goings on. A paternalistic man, who is reported as being unbending, vengeful, and extremely authoritarian, has pretty much established himself as Turkey’s elected sovereign.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the news outlets in Turkey have left the demonstrations largely unreported. While the demonstrations at Taksim Square took the eerie appearance of a battleground with the riot police squaring up against the demonstrators, and similar scenes played out in Ankara and Izmir, the Turkish news and current affairs outlets transmitted wildlife documentaries and concerts. So the traditional media outlets seem complicit in not providing free and fair reporting of the unrest among the people. And there are other echoes of totalitarianism; it is reported that very few contrary opinions are tolerated – journalists who have a free pen are in jail, all seems quiet on the judiciary front, and criticism of Erdogan by the unions, universities or civilians is rarely heard.

So as with the Arab Spring, it was again Facebook and Twitter that led the awareness campaigns showing yet another government’s heavy-handedness against the very people that elected it, and a police force’s unrelenting aggression against the very people it should be protecting.  Erdogan has blamed social media for the uprising and labeled Twitter and social media “the worst menace to society.”  However, quite the contrary is true, as social media outlets have again proven that they hold the key to freedom.

While in times of peace and prosperity, we can look to YouTube for the latest pop song video, when the times call for it, those same outlets let you hear the voices of an angered people who will not be enslaved by kings and sultans.

Democracy is not about getting elected.  Democracy is about listening to the voice of the people. It is that ideal that is “of the people, by the people and for the people.” And it is the social media outlets that have forged forward in protecting this singular freedom and demanding it of our politicians.  At the end of the day, without democracy, a politician is just that guy over there with a very loud voice.

Over the last six months in Pakistan we saw social media mobilize millions of Pakistanis in rallies and demonstrations for all the major parties (with one notable exception). Through that mobilization a one-seat back-bencher was thrust forward to become a real player on the political pitch and a one-time Canadian cleric was able to conduct a “million man march”.

The same Nawaz Sharif that welcomed Erdogan a year ago, is to be sworn in for his third stint as Pakistan’s Prime Minister. But on the same day that we congratulate him, we hope that he will take note of what is happening with his allies in Turkey. Social media has come of age, the people have stirred and they want their democracy in actions and not in unfulfilled promises.

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