Syria’s SNN: An Alternative Voice

by Gabby LaVerghetta

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.)

This entry was posted in Arab Spring, Citizen Journalists, Drug War, Facebook, Journalism, Mexico, Shaam News Network (SNN), Social Media, Syria, Twitter, Violence, YouTube and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Syria’s SNN: An Alternative Voice

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  2. gl5384a says:

    The situation in Syria is complicated. There are numerous opposition groups that want to pursue different courses of action. It isn’t clear who is behind the Houla massacre. The Security Council hasn’t reached a consensus. Assad agreed to Kofi Annan’s peace plan but hasn’t implemented any of the points. These factors all make it difficult to proceed. It’s international politics as usual.

    But there is one thing that’s clear – thousands of people have died in the past 15 months and more are dying every day. The point of my blog is that the environment in Syria is extremely dangerous and professional journalists have been targeted. It’s no longer safe to send correspondents there. SNN has been an outlet for people on the ground to get media out of the country. Of course that type of anonymous crowdsourcing raises questions of accountability and you can choose to doubt the validity of the content.

    Obviously the U.S. government has been involved in some less than admirable “regime changes” in the past. But it’s not always a conspiracy. In this case, I personally don’t believe that we’re seeing a conspiracy among the U.S., NATO, the U.N., and the Arab League to oust the Syrian regime. At any rate, my post isn’t calling on NATO to bomb Assad. It’s simply discussing an emergent media outlet.

  3. wiseman says:

    Looks like someone’s been drinking too much Russian propaganda or watching too much RT on the TV.

  4. saltyd says:

    The majority of media has been bending over backwards to pin all the blame for the violence taking place in Syria on Assad, while ignoring the role that the U.S., France, and other NATO countries are playing in fueling the conflict. Shaam News Network follows the same pattern, so I’m not sure how it can be considered any kind of alternative voice.

    The U.S. has being looking for a way to implement regime change in Syria for years. Former General Wesley Clark often talked about how as early as 2001 he was handed a list of targeted countries that included not only Syria but Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan. (

    The story of the Houla massacre has already been debunked after the BBC was caught using old footage from Iraq and passing it off as victims of the Assad government ( The BBC and Al-Jazeera have thrown away any pretense of objectivity in their reporting and have been continuously airing footage taken by any unnamed “activist” as long as it fits their story of Assad as a genocidal maniac. And the BBC has also faked footage that supposedly showed cheering crowds after the overthrow of Gadhafi (

    The U.S. is using the same strategy that worked in Libya. Find a leader that’s not willing to completely privatize his country’s industries, train some Islamic fundamentalists to try and violently seize power, wait for the government to crack down with force on the uprising, and finally call for NATO bombs to protect the “innocent protesters.” We even imported some of our proxy army in Libya over to Syria to help them in their effort to topple Assad.

    Groups like the “Free Syrian Army” are no different than the the Nicaraguan Contras of the 1980’s. The U.S., the mainstream media, and even “citizen” outlets like SNN are all desperate to spin a tale about how the Syrian opposition are “freedom fighters.” In reality, these death squads are useful tools to advance U.S. interests in the region.

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