Ihumātao occupation powered by social media

September 10, 2019

Ihumātao occupation powered by social media

Qiane Matata-Sipu. Photo: Ellen Sinclair

Social media is helping the protectors of Ihumātao spread their message and direct their own story.

By running social media accounts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the founders of SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape), the group coordinating the Ihumātao occupation, are producing their own content instead of relying on mainstream media.

Putting out their own content helped prevent misinformation and unnecessary speculation, said Qiane Matata-Sipu (Te Wai-o-hua, Waikato-Tainui), co-founder of SOUL.

“Creating our own content is really important, because it’s about getting our truth out there,” she said.

It was important to let the public see the bigger picture and widen their perspective because “somebody will see one minute of the day, and then they will base this entire campaign on that one minute", she said.

To prevent this from happening, SOUL was “sharing throughout the day, on various platforms and various ways” to give the public a wider picture than what mainstream media is producing, said Ms Matata-Sipu.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson (Ngāti Porou, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi) has also acknowledged the important role of self-directed media in the occupation at Ihumātao.

Most of the best stories had been “coming from the young women sitting on the front line doing it all there on the whenua, sending out the blogs, and the callouts on Instagram and Facebook, Twitter, all the things", she said.

As well as putting out information, social media had been “helping create the community” at Ihumātao by allowing SOUL to ask for help and get a response, said Ms Matata-Sipu,

SOUL’s social media channels carried calls to action and “when we need people on the ground, we put out a message and they come".

Social media has not only been useful for SOUL and the protectors, but also for people unable to get to the land to physically support the occupation.

On-site volunteer doctor Madeline Gee said for anyone not in Auckland, or wondering how they could help, the social media livestreams and other content had helped direct their support.

“When you’re far away you feel like, ‘oh what can I do to help?’ so it’s been really great,” she said.

The use of social media also leaves SOUL vulnerable to “quite vicious messages”, which Ms Matata-Sipu said could be hurtful when directed at the individuals behind the accounts.

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