“Journalists should be watchdogs, not lapdogs” -Newton Lee
Do you know what is going on today?
In Syria about 34,000 people flee their homes every day, this means someone becomes a refugee every two seconds. 51% of the world’s refugees are children. Only 30 medics remain in Aleppo and people are more likely to encounter a bomb than food. Syria is in the top 10 most censored countries in the world. The government shuts down mobile phones, landlines, electricity, and internet and hacks websites to post pro-regime material. Authority figures imprison, torture, exile, and even kill journalists who threaten this control. Marie Colvin and Paul Conroy, two journalists who traveled to Syria in 2012, went in and out of Syria with civilian help through Turkey because the government might not have let them into the country or they might have been taken hostage if the government knew what they were reporting on.
In Venezuela more than 2,000 students are currently in jail for protesting, one person is killed every 21 minutes, and there is nearly a 90% shortage of basic goods like milk, pasta, diapers, shampoo etc. To get these goods, Venezuelans stand in long lines that could last over 12 hours, but still does not guarantee finding them. If they do, all goods have a 700% inflation rate. When Colombia opened its borders, most people bought flour and diapers. Opposition speakers, like Maria Corina Machado, are beaten, and its leader, Leopoldo Lopez, are in jail as political prisoners. International journalist were detained at the airport and denied entry, newspaper offices where shot at and vandalized, and journalists, like David Natera, have been incarcerated for writing about government corruption.
If a government cuts media coverage or controls it to their advantage, they are hiding something, so they isolate the country from the rest of the world. Considering this, how do we, people around the world, who are not living these situations possibly know what is happening?
This is where my love for technology comes in.
I consider journalism a form of speaking up, and there is one thing that these countries have: millions of innocent voices. When the Syrian war started, people became aware of it thanks to civilians using their phones to record bombings on their homes. They videotaped their dead friends rather than mourning them and posted it on YouTube. No filter, no editing. They looked for a satellite connection, and as soon as they had it, the world had access to those videos. Facebook shows images and 1-minute videos of Venezuelans in huge lines and of police hitting and arresting protestors. The simplest videos have also been posted of people testifying about the situation in Venezuela and asking president Maduro to hear them. Honestly, when someone speaks up about sleeping and waking up with fear, when someone is breathing with worry, and when someone for whom coming home is uncertain speaks up, the world should applaud them. Some people call them leaders; others (government) call them criminals. Their common denomination is citizen journalists. They are people who do not have journalistic credentials, but accomplish journalistic functions. Thanks to them, people and official press worldwide are aware of these situations. (Links to student made documental and testimonies at the end of article)
However, awareness comes with responsibility. Just like civilians point at the situation in their countries, they point at everyone who does not do something about it. The information is out there, so if we turn our backs to that information, if we CHOOSE to ignore it, we might not be attacking them directly with bombs or bullets, but our indifference might hurt them even more. We need a second to put ourselves in their shoes to know that if it were us facing such injustices and abuse of power, we would cry for help until we lost our voices. Every time I see and hear any of these videos, pain and anguish invades my chest, tears flood my eyes and impotence takes over me because I feel so helpless. After all, I am just a person right? Well WRONG!
If everybody who thinks that would come together, all us “nothings” can make a change. People have come through before and wore red for the kidnapped girls from Nigeria with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and people changed their profile photos after the terrorists attacks in Paris with the #PrayforParis campaign. Some people said “this is stupid, nothing is going to change” but it does change. Even if it is not in the actual country, people coming together for others, builds a more united society. These are movements. I believe this branch in journalism pressures international organizations (hence, United Nations) and the larger press to pay attention, write follow ups, and to get involved. Unfortunately, people doubt citizen journalists because news channels like BBC, CNN, NBC, have built a reputation and have gained trust that can get through to more people. If citizens and the press worldwide stand together, there is so much a government can do with the whole world (other governments, international organizations) watching. Citizens desperately shed light over these situations; we owe our knowledge to them so we owe them a response. From the moment they risk their lives by putting a video exposing their governments, we are no longer blind by force but by choice. In the words of Maya Angelu, “we are only as blind as we want to be”
It is priceless and absolutely spectacular how citizen journalists are using social media to reach us. Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook… we use these EVERYDAY. The information is out there, no excuses. Karl Popper said, “True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it”. My professor pointed out how from the moment we wake up we are bombarded with information, images, videos, adds, and we need to be bombarded with news as well. Yes, the news is not the Kardashians, it is not memes, parties, or Netflix, and it is definitely not always fun or happy… it is about people. Now I know it sounds this way, but I am not saying do not look at those things. If those are the things you like, enjoy them! God knows I could spend hours listening to music, browsing photography and watching movies, but when we choose these over someone else’s suffering, over someone else’s life, we draw a permanent line in the sand. We must prolong our initial shock, it is not enough to be shocked a few days because we get to eat, study, see our families and use social media for fun, not to ask for help.
Lets use social media for more than likes, lets look beyond the number of followers and re-tweets and take advantage of being connected to one another, of being able to communicate with the entire world within seconds. Journalism is the voice of people; citizen journalists do not sit to be patted like lapdogs. They go out there, put themselves on the line for a greater cause, and report in the hope that we will not be lapdogs either. There is a reason why journalism is known as the fourth state; it is because it has the power to inform people, and when people are informed, they can react, and when they react, changes are made.
Teachers skip class: https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/749056521902524/
Student documental (extremely recommended): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNQUlSsI_7Y
Rescued girl crying for her dad: https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/813235395484636/
Thirty medics left in Aleppo: https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/809247749216734/
European with refugees, eye contact communication: https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/735512623256914/
Photojournalist Paul Conroy interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GpTBx3P4dg&spfreload=5
BBC Syria: The story of the conflict:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26116868
CNN Interview with Lilian Tintori- Leopoldo Lopez (Venezuelas opposition party leader):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_6YF6vieAI
The Guardian-Why Venezuelans are protesting: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/12/venezuelans-on-why-they-are-marching-for-referendum-nicolas-maduro
Oman Daqneesh airstrike story: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/17/world/syria-little-boy-airstrike-victim/