In Syria, many activists and citizen journalists fill a media void and contribute to the global conversation on the uprising there by capturing and sharing their own footage. They’re organized, trained, smart, strategic, and promote media — much of it mobile — with a purpose.
Mass demonstrations and state violence continue in Syria. Authorities are largely banning foreign reporters and have arrested Syrian journalists and bloggers. Outside of the country, many news outlets that report on the major events there cite “Syrian activists” as the source of information. Day-to-day events in cities around the country come to our attention largely because of the activists and citizen journalists who are systematically providing information to news outlets worldwide.
Thus, perhaps the way the term “citizen journalism” has been used to date is a misnomer in the context of recent events in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. Activists on the ground and online don’t just happen to capture and record media because they’re in the right place at the right time. Instead, they systematically gather, and strategically disseminate media.
It may be time for a new term — “activist media” who are reporting from the front lines — that describes the organized media campaigns waged by these activists in a place where traditional media is largely absent.
a media revolution
A report from Channel 4 News noted that a “a band of brand-new, out-of-nowhere, self-styled TV news reporters has sprung up in besieged Syrian cities,” contributing to a media revolution. The article highlighted the video below, in which a video journalist from the Baba al-Sebaa area of Homs reported, all the while dodging bullets toward the end of the video.
But videos like these are more than just valuable content. They’re part of a cogent global narrative from a well-informed and well-equipped group of activists who use mobile phones to live-stream, video record, Skype, and take photos in very strategic ways to provide witness and testimony to the events in Syria. They inform a public outside of the country, as well as reinforce activism in many areas within Syria, conveying the story of an opposition movement.
Most of the reporting is, of course, coming from the front lines. But organizations both in and outside of the country are offering support and training, with mainstream media outlets publishing and pushing citizen content to a larger global audience to help reinforce the narrative of the rebellion.
The media-savvy activists use a number of astute dissemination strategies: Photos and videos are shared across multiple platforms alongside additional text context or transcripts, and often have metadata such as time, date, and location stamps. Content is being uploaded hourly, and often live, on any number of social media sites, blogs and live-streaming video services like Bambuser. And where Internet or mobile network access are shut down, footage is collected and distributed via alternatives such as the old-fashioned sneakernet.
You can read the complete story here on the Mobile Media Toolkit. We highlight ways that activists and citizens are strategically capturing, crafting and sharing news, as well as the organizations that help support their work.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Syria-Frames-of-Freedom and licensed under Creative Commons.