One of the major sources of the violent images and videos coming out of Syria has been SNN. No, that’s not a typo. SNN stands for the Shaam News Network, a Damascus-based media aggregator of citizen journalism content. The network started attracting more attention after its coverage of last week’s horrific massacre in Houla. In fact, the photo of rows of bodies lying in a morgue, perhaps the most recognizable image to come from Houla, came from SNN.
Syrian citizens upload their media to YouTube without providing any descriptive information. The same people then text the details to SNN, which distributes the videos to a wider audience. The two-step process provides an added security blanket for everyone dealing with the controversial videos. (To its credit, YouTube has also contributed to the cause by showing a series of videos from Houla.)
SNN is an incredible tale of what citizen journalism can accomplish. Of course, there is always the risk that fake content will make it to the network. Anyone can upload anonymously, so verification can be challenging. This poses the traditional dilemma of who should be considered a journalist. But overall, SNN illustrates a larger positive trend in news. Where journalists are obstructed, citizens will prevail to tell the story.
The SNN case reminds me of Mexico – a country where journalists have become targets in the Drug War. (For more, please see: “Mexico: The Dangerous Climate for Free Speech.”) Mexican journalists fear for their lives, but regular citizens have turned to social media to spread information about violence. (For more, please see: “Mexico: Journalists & the Drug War.”) Now we are seeing a similar phenomenon in Syria. The early success of SNN at raising awareness has been inspiring. Here’s hoping that companies like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter will continue to support activists and citizen journalists in areas of strife.
(For more on the conflict in Syria, please see: “RT vs. Al Jazeera: The Propaganda War Over the Syrian Revolt.”)
(SNN’s logo is from its Facebook page and is in the public domain.)