Governments, pay attention. The online social media, which
innocuously started out as a medium of personal tell-all, is poised to be a
powerful catalyst of change as more tech-savvy people use the medium to
disseminate information once hushed up by governments.
“Technology, particularly communication technology, is
changing the world. Look at what is happening in the Arab world,” Mahfuz Anam,
the editor of Bangladesh-based English newspaper The Daily Star, said Monday.
“Nobody ever thought that there would be so many public
voices coming out and changing governments,” he added.
The spirit of protests in Tunisia spread across many Arab
nations where people sought change. News of the bloodless coup d’etat, as well
as the method by which it was achieved, even spread to China, prompting the
government to block access to Twitter and Facebook to prevent a repeat of such
events in the country.
“The social media must now be used to increase democracy, to
increase the participation of the people in running the country,” he told The
Jakarta Post at a discussion on the changing balance of power in Asia.
He added that social media, paired with laws on the right to
information, were also potent weapons against corruption by shedding light into
In addition to Bangladesh, Asian countries such as Indonesia
have laws stipulating that governments must provide information to the public
unless the information could jeopardize national security.
“The cloak of secrecy is the weapon of corruption. When you
release that cloak of secrecy, corruption does not disappear but reduces
dramatically,” Mahfuz added.
Ravindra Kumar, the editor of Indian daily The Statesman,
added that the influence of social media stretched beyond the borders of a
He said foreign affairs could change as well after
governments of other countries read accounts on the true state of affairs in
another county through what residents of that country posted on social media
He added that diplomats, politicians and civil servants “who
have long put a cloak on foreign policy and strategic affairs” would be those
most affected by social media.
Social media can be used to increase participation in
political processes both within and outside the country. Wong Chun Wai, the
editor of Malaysian newspaper The Star, said candidates geared up for election
on Facebook and Twitter.
“They are discovering that this is the form of communication
through which they can now reach more individuals than mainstream media,” he
He said regional political entities such as ASEAN could
capitalize on the wide reach of social media in promoting causes valuable to
For example, he said, ASEAN could work with bloggers in Asia
to act as ambassadors to promote people-to-people relationships. However, a
“concerted effort to do so” must be made by ASEAN member states.
He added that social media would eventually change the
workings of ASEAN.
“You can see it coming. It’s only a matter of time,” he