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Social media: A powerful tool for human rights activists

By Eliza Villarino11 November 2011

A screencap of a story about one of Amnesty International's successful social media campaigns. Photo by: Amnesty International

Faizan Rafiq Hakeem regained his freedom on April 5, after more than a month of incarceration. And it’s largely thanks to Twitter.

Hakeem is a 14-year-old native of Jammu and Kashmir, a state north of India. He was arrested in early February 2011 for rioting, and though he received bail, the police still detained him, citing provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, which allows detention of up to two years without charge or trial.

Amnesty International pressed for Hakeem’s release and took its campaign online. Soon after launching #freefaizan on Twitter April 1, Amnesty supporters were sending angry tweets to @abdullah_omar, the personal Twitter page of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

“@Raheelk medical tests show him 2 B above 17, Law in J&K a minor is under 16. However in light of circumstances am looking sympathetically,” Abdullah, an active Twitter user, replied to one of the tweets on April 1.

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About the author

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Eliza Villarino

Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.


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