Black Thursday Bombings: Media Coverage and Twitter

On January 10th, two suicide bombs ripped through Quetta, part of Pakistan’s troubled Balochistan province, in what is being called the worst terror attack in this neighborhood dominated by ethnic Hazara Shiites.  Human rights activists and politicians have condemned the lack of media coverage of this and past terror incidents, for which the banned group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) has claimed responsibility.  Despite the overwhelming number of casualties in this incident, mainstream media continued to ignore the bombing and have not provided coverage of the Hazara community genocide. Citizens turned to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to voice their anguish.

Some citizens staged a sit-in and refused to bury the dead, urging the removal of the provincial government and greater security against violence. Thousands of people from the Hazara Shia community endured freezing temperatures and rain to join the sit-in at Quetta’s Alamdar Road. Again, the event was largely ignored by the media; however, protesters used Twitter to express despair, hopelessness, and images of brutality.




As the sit in entered its third day, the protest  had spread across the country, thanks to social media sites where many called upon the leaders of the present government to act and the mainstream news media to provide non-stop coverage of the issue.  Many of the political parties joined the protest to show solidarity and to save face after not visiting the bomb site.

The hashtags #Quetta #ShiaGenocide #LeJ, and #WeallareShia were trending on Twitter in Pakistan. The figure below shows global mentions of #Quetta on Twitter, which increased after the bombing and reached a peak on January 13th, when the Prime Minister of Pakistan flew to Quetta to address Hazara community’s grievances and announced live on television that he accepted all their demands, including the deconstruction of the provincial government and the suspension of its legislature.



The second peak show occurred on February 16th, when another bomb targeted young school children and women in a Hazara town, killing 84 and injuring 200.




Social media sites and digital age activism has made it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coordinate, and raise their concerns. The use of Twitter in the Black Thursday protests ultimately galvanized a protest movement and led to the removal of the provincial government. As the May 11th elections approach, social media sites have been utilized by candidates and citizens to debate election affairs and security officials work to prevent additional violence.



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