This article, written by David Arnold explains that ordinary Syrian citizens are the cheif reporters of the Syrian conflict. Because President Bashar al-Assad has prevented international media from providing on-the-ground coverage of the conflict, Syrian citizens have filled their role — using social media websites to interact with the world. Arnold cites hundreds, if not thousands of Syrian activists as using ICT devices such as smartphones, cameras and video cameras to visually document events. Such anonymous citizen-journalists then post their footage to Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and more, enabeling citizens to show the government’s atrocities to the rest of the world and make their voices heard, despite Assad’s international media blackout.
In addition to posting visual documentation to social media sites, these citizen-journalists often directly inform international news sources of recent events. For example Liz Sly, the Washington Posts’s Baghdad bureau chief who is in charge of reporting on the Syrian conflict, depends on over 100 Syrian amateur journalists to inform her newspaper’s articles. Though verifying their information is difficult, there is no other alternative.
The civilian opposition within Syria also relies on citizen-journalists. For example, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) depends on hundreds of voluneteers to document protests, strikes, and government attrocities to inform its 24-hour reporting to the international media. Additionally, Rami Jarrah, a Syrian blogger residing in Cairo, recently founded the Activists News Association (ANA) which provides citizen reporters in Syria with training and equipment.
Arnold emphasizes that these citizen-journalists risk their lives daily to communicate Assad’s attrocities to the world and bring justice to their county. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has labeled Syria as the most dangerous country for journalists in the world, listing 13 journalists as killed in the country to date. Yet the overall estimate of killed journalists who were unknown or working for the LCC is likely much higher. For example, Rafif Jouejati, a spokesperson for the LCC stated “We’ve lost a great many activists detained, arrested, tortured to death and shot on the spot,” said Jouejati. “It is in the hundreds.”
The combined role of citizen-journalists and social-media in Syria is of the utmost importance. Social media is helping Syrian citizens find their voice amidst utter repression, as citizens capture government attrocities and post their footage for all the world to see. An everyday, individual citizen under severe repression can now influence an international audiences’ opinion–a phenomenon unique to the digitized world of the 21st century.