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With over 150-million active users posting 55-million photos a day from all three of the major smartphone platforms, Instagram is becoming an increasingly important conduit for the way we process important news events. It gives us a visual-first glimpse into how people on the ground are experiencing these events, something which the addition of video in June only added to.
As 2013 draws to a close, we’ve rounded up Instagram photos from some of the year’s biggest news events. While we have tried to make the list as global as possible, it is worth remembering that it isn’t always possible to get Instagram images from less developed countries, where smartphone usage remains low.
January: Barack Obama sworn in for second term
After a 2012 electoral victory that was far more comprehensive than many were expecting, US president Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term in office on an icy afternoon in Washington, DC.
February: Oscar Pistorious kills Reeva Steenkamp
On February 14, paralympian icon oscar Pistorius was arrested following the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. During the bail hearing, no TV press were allowed to film inside the court. Social media therefore became the platform on which much of the drama played out.
March: Pope Francis elected
Following the shock resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio) was elected as the 266th head of the Catholic Church. One of the most striking things about his election was the role technology and social media played in following the arcane and ancient rites being played out in The Vatican.
April: Margaret Thatcher dies
One of the United Kingdom’s most divisive prime ministers, Margret Thatcher died on 8 April after battling ill-health for several years. The former Conservative Party leader was the UK’s first female prime minister and its longest-serving, holding office from 1979 until 1990.
May: World’s largest rubber duck arrives in Hong Kong
Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s 16-meter rubber duck has been touring the world since 2007 and when it arrived in Hong Kong in May, it was an instant Instagram sensation.
June: Turkish anti-government protests
After police disrupted a protest in Istanbul’s Taskim Square aimed at preventing a park in the district from being redeveloped into a shopping mall, Turkey erupted into nationwide demonstrations.
The intent of the original protest was quickly displaced by deep-seated issues around cultural divisions and discontent with the government.
July: Egyptian coup
As the so-called Arab Spring swept through the Middle East and North Africa in late 2010 and 2011, there was a profound sense of hope that Egypt would lead the region into a new era of open democracy. A little over two years later and that hope seemed to fall apart as Egyptian army chief General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi removed the country’s then-incumbent president Mohamed Morsi from power and suspended the Egyptian constitution. The coup came after prolonged protests — which sometimes boiled over into conflict — both for and against Morsi.
August: 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assasination
On 28 August, the world marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr, the man who embodied the struggle for black liberation in the United States. Thousands of people gathered in front of Washington’s Lincoln Memorial to hear speeches from President Barack Obama and others in hunour of Dr King.
September: Westgate Mall attacks
In September, the world’s eyes turned to Nairobi, Kenya as members of the group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) took the Westgate shopping mall by force. The group, which was angry at Kenya’s military presence in Somalia, took members of the public hostage before engaging in gun fights with Kenyan security forces. The attack resulted in at least 72 deaths, including 61 civilians, six Kenyan soldiers, and four attackers.
October: US government shutdown
Following disagreements around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, the US government failed to pass a substantial funding bill. As a result, all state services (except those deemed most vital) including national parks and museums were shut down for 16 days. Eventually a compromise (weighted heavily in favour of the Democrats) was reached and normal service resumed.
November: Typhoon Haiyan
One of the most powerful storm systems in history, Typhoon Haiyan saw 4 000 people die, four-million people displaced and 13-million people affected. The photographs captured in the wake of the typhoon show just how devastating it actually was.
December: Nelson Mandela dies
There wasn’t really a sense of shock when former South African president and global statesman Nelson Mandela died on 5 December. The 95-year-old had, after all, been battling with illness for a number of months. Nonetheless there was a profound sense of sadness and loss as the world lost a man who had shown it how to forgive and embrace your enemy.