April 18, 2012

Activist Media from the Frontlines: Mobile, Strategic, and Much More Than Just at “The Right Place at the Right Time”

In Syria, activists and citizen journalists fill a media void and strategically inform the global conversation on the uprising by capturing and sharing their own footage. They are organized, trained, smart, strategic, and promote media – much of it mobile – with a purpose.

Mass demonstrations and continued state violence continue in Syria. Authorities are largely banning foreign reporters and have arrested Syrian journalists and bloggers. Outside of the country, news outlets report on the major events there citing “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.

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 do not ‘just happen’ to capture and record media because they are in the “right place at the right time” but instead systematically gather, and strategically disseminate media. It may be time for a new term – ‘activist media’ who are reporting from the frontlines – that describes the organized media campaigns waged by these activists in a place where traditional media is largely absent.

A report from Channel 4 News notes 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 highlights the video below, in which a video journalist from the Baba al-Sebaa area of Homs reports, all the while dodging bullets toward the end of the video.

But videos like these are more than just valuable content. They are part of a cogent global narrative from a well-informed and well-equipped group of activists who use mobile phones to live-stream, video, Skype, and 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 the country, conveying the story of an opposition movement.

Most of the reporting is, of course, coming from the front lines. But there is support and training from organizations in and outside of the country with mainstream media outlets publishing and pushing citizen content to a larger global audience to help reinforce the narrative of the rebellion.

Read the complete story on the Mobile Media Toolkit. We highlight ways that acitivsts and citizens are strategically capturing, crafting, and sharing news, as well as organizations that help support their work.

This article was previously published at http://mobileactive.org/activist-media-frontlines-not-just-being-right-place-right-time-anymore

Katrin is the co-founder and editor of MobileActive.org, a global network of practitioners using mobile phones for social impact.

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Katrin Verclas
Katrin Verclas' background is in IT and project management in nonprofit organizations, community organizing, community engagement, political advocacy, and relationship management, and she has also spent considerable time in her professional life as a program officer for a number of grantmaking and philanthropic initiatives. Katrin coordinates MobileActive, a global network of activists and NGOs using mobile phones for social change. She served as Executive Director of NTEN from 2006-2007. She previously co-directed Aspiration: Better Tools for a Better World, a nonprofit organization focused on providing software-related services and resources to other nonprofit organizations. Before that, she worked as a consultant, deputy director of a holding organization of funds, and as a program officer.