Can The World Tweet, Facebook Like, Or Hashtag A Captured Journalist To Safety?

dorthy parvaz

The “Free Dorothy Parvaz” movement continues to gain steam online.

ReadWriteWeb reports on the efforts to free the Canadian-born Al Jazeera journalist who went missing on April 29.

@FreeDorothy is finding a following, over 15,000 people “like” the Free Dorothy Facebook page, and the #FreeDorothy hashtag is constantly getting new tweets supporting her release.

Which is wonderful news, an example of social media in action.

Except for one tiny, problematic fact: Parvaz is still in custody, more than two weeks after being deported to Iran (assuming she is actually in Tehran).

While the social media efforts have increased the general public’s knowledge of Parvaz’s plight, they have done little to get her home safely. Granted, it has been roughly half a month — less than a tenth of the time The New York Times‘ David Rohde spent as a capitve of the Taliban — but while her family no doubt appreciates the support, they would certainly trade all the Facebook likes to have Parvaz back (or, one suspects, to simply hear she is OK).

She will not be released when the Facebook campaign reaches a certain number of likes or when the hashtag has x many mentions per minute, just as four journalists captured in Libya did not need a massive social media campaign to find their freedom.

Parvaz will be released when Iranian officials say so, encouraged by Al Jazeera’s efforts as well as those of more formal organisations such as the United States State Department and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

And yes, Twitter, Facebook, etc. can spur the State Department to act or increase public pressure. But in the end, while social media can play a part, it cannot negotiate for the journalist’s safety.