LAHORE: The Punjab police has launched multiple initiatives for large-scale reforms in its social media activities with two prime objectives – counter hate campaigns against the police and address public complaints.

The high-ups designed the initiatives after the police’s social media bashing took an ugly form during the recent clashes with the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

The department experts identified hundreds of accounts handled supposedly by TLP activists for trolling the police by posting offensive content and distorted facts on social media regarding the clashes.

An official said the activists used offensive language and humiliating comments that hurt the sentiments of the personnel. The propaganda and criticism did not even spare the martyred policemen, he added.

He claimed several teams comprising hundreds of TLP activists had distorted facts by uploading edited video clips and photographs of supposed police brutality on many social media websites to defame the force. The anti-police content uploaded by hundreds of fake and other accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube inflicted a major dent on the department’s image, he lamented.

A detailed analysis has been conducted by a team of senior police experts at the Central Police Office (CPO) in the aftermath of the TLP’s violent clashes. It suggested that the police’s official social media accounts had 5.7 million followers – the most for any Punjab government department. However, it failed to counter the online hate and criticism directed towards its performance.

“The abuse consequently shattered the morale of the police force despite rendering lives and sustaining injuries in attacks by the TLP,” the official said.

He said the study also found 100,000 Twitter accounts of the country’s most influential people, including rulers, politicians, government officers, lawyers, journalists and social media activists, who could play a decisive role in helping the police. The department’s social media experts have been tasked with reaching out to these users to sensitise them to the police’s sacrifices and public welfare initiatives to promote their point of view effectively. Of these users, 33 per cent were senior journalists, columnists, analysts and reporters.

He said the high-ups have realised that it was the right time to counter the anti-police narrative by giving a neutral response through social media.

Following the online tirade, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Rao Sardar Ali Khan launched various initiatives to reorganise the social media teams at the centre and district levels across the province.

A post for media communication was being created and a deputy inspector general (DIG) rank (BS-20) officer would be appointed to it. The officer would lead a team of police and civil experts who would run the department’s social and other media networks.

On Friday, the IGP also inaugurated a Social Media Monitoring Unit at the CPO for effective use of online platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. The unit would be responsible for prompt delivery of information and solutions to people’s complaints. Addressing the occasion, the IGP directed the staff to propagate police’s public welfare projects.

Punjab Police Information Officer and DIG (Operations) Sajid Kiyani briefed the police chief about the working of the unit. He said it would pay special attention to the resolution of people’s problems and speedy provision of information.

The working of public relations officers of all regions, districts and units has been integrated through a modern system to ensure effective information sharing as well as police action on citizens’ complaints is fast-tracked.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2021

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