This post was written by Matisse Bustos Hawkes, Communications Manager at WITNESS
Since international media have been barred from entering Syria since mid 2011, news reports have relied heavily on activists in country who daily risk their own safety to film and share video and speak with reporters. Activists in Syria harness available internet communication, as well as mobile phones and the strategic use of dedicated satellite modems and communications infrastructure to get multimedia content out quickly and effectively.
In this post, we highlight some valuable sources for keeping up with the deteriorating situation in Syria (particularly for English-speakers) and provide resources for how you can help activists using video for change, in Syria and around the world, more safely and effectively.
My colleague Chris Michael, our Video Advocacy Training Manager shared some thoughts with me:
Syria has been an epicenter of video for change for nearly a year. At great risk, Syrians have been recording and sharing content quickly -- documenting the breadth and consistency of demonstrations throughout the country, calls for justice, as well as the subsequent brutality and oppression of the Assad regime.
Through the flood of literally tens of thousands of videos that continue to come out of Syria, we see activists develop best practices to capture video for potential evidentiary use. They take necessary, but often dangerous steps, to capture the location of where they are filming, context to the situation, and attempt to protect the identify of demonstrators, interviewees, the wounded and sometimes the dead.
We are working to support Syrian activists through sharing our materials and developing new ones that are specific to the unique challenges they're facing. We have a lot to learn from these human rights defenders who have been forced to become video for change leaders.
A lot of the footage that has been uploaded from Syria has been graphic in nature, showing the grisly results of the bombardments, snipers and other weapons aimed at members of the Syrian Free Army as well as civilians. Debates continue about the efficacy of showing this footage.
Regardless, we know that personal stories can be effective at conveying the toll of such events. Again my colleague Chris notes:
We're seeing a surge of personal stories and testimonies from people directly affected -- mothers who have lost their sons; daughters whose fathers have been detained, tortured and killed by the regime; and others who are using video to show and tell the world what is happening.
These personal accounts, along with the visual evidence Syrians are capturing further illuminate the tragedy they are facing, and help greatly amplify their calls for justice and accountability. Video has played a major role to support calls to end the violence -- and hopefully will be used as evidence to ensure accountability.
One example of these personal stories shared in December is below. There is not much by way of visuals in the video, just an impassioned voice asking for help from the international community and condemning the acts of the Assad government:
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