Twitter and Swaraj to the rescue in Yemen

Indians stranded in Yemen were using Twitter to reach out directly to Sushma Swaraj. Who in turn responded to their Twitter handles. REJIMON K marvels at how crisis reporting has changed for old print hands.
Posted/Updated Saturday, Apr 04 23:21:32, 2015

It seems the days of people in distress approaching traditional print media to air their grievances have gone. Nobody is interested in waiting restlessly for 24 hours to make their voices heard, when real-time online connectivity has emerged as a successful and powerful tool.

Before the Twitter bird started to chirp seven years ago, it was journalists who had monopoly on breaking news and in portraying tearful stories of people in distress for the readers. But things have changed now. Ministers, diplomats and even commoners have become journalists, whom the old-style journalists are compelled to follow.

As an evidence of the change, nowadays each and every news report filed from troubled areas will be reporting a tweet. Instead of he/they said, it is now he/she tweeted.

The ongoing war in Yemen can be considered as a fitting example on how dissemination of information has changed and how interactive the news business has become.

Not only have the means of sharing of latest happenings by people in distress have changed, but also the news gathering process for journalists has changed a lot.

Being a journalist in Oman, the neighbouring country of Yemen, I too had to depend on tweets to file stories for online and print in Muscat.

When the Indian Defence ministry planned to send ships, aircrafts and C-17 Globemasters to Yemen to rescue the Indians stranded, the news was first broke by Indian officials involved in the mission on their Twitter account.

Then on, each and every updates on the rescue plan went live on Twitter. Whether it was Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s tweets or her spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin’s tweets, everything were quite helpful not only for journalists to file their reports for the next day’s edition but also for those who were stranded in the war-torn country.

Several Indians stranded in Yemen were using Twitter to send an SOS and reach out directly to Sushma Swaraj and her spokesperson.

Sabah Shawesh, a Yemeni woman, was among those who tweeted to the minister, saying she was a PIO card holder. “I am so scared for my 8 months son & myself,” she tweeted. The minister asked for her phone number and assured her of assistance.

An Indian, Mustafa Loka, asked Swaraj on Twitter why the flight that was supposed to take him and others home didn’t arrive. “We went to Sana’a airport and came back. What chance do we have now?” he asked.

“Awaiting clearance to fly in Yemen airspace. If no clearance received, we will evacuate you by ship reaching Hodeidah port on 4th midnight,” Swaraj replied from her official handle.

(If no clearance received, we will evacuate you by ship reaching Hodeidah port on 4th midnight. @mkloka— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) April 1, 2015)

Several Indians who returned thanked Swaraj and MEAIndia on Twitter.

“Today we reached safely from Djibouti to Mumbai. You have done tremendous effort to send us to India,” said Ajaj A Majid. Another one replied to Swaraj’s tweet: “Yemen-We evacuated 80 Indians from Sana’a yesterday,” saying “I am one among them and now in transit at Doha. Will reach by tomorrow morning. Thank you very much for your all efforts.”

Stranded Indians also conveyed their fears and concerns to the Minister directly through Twitter. Not only tweets, but also pictures were going live from the rescue front. Syed and others were tweeting the pictures of C-17 landing, detailed list of recued people, and rescued Indians sharing their happiness with State Minister Gen (retd) VK Singh on INS Sumitra.

Twitter never sleeps and neither does the modern journalist like me, who is scanning updates 24/7, posting and retweeting to break stories online and to get an in-depth story for next day’s print. Reporting has changed and has become more interesting. Racing against time in this online networking era is becoming more and more challenging.–to-the-rescue-in-Yemen/8221-1-1-12-true.html


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