By Joe Wright
The press release posted below from Index on Censorship correctly highlights the importance of everyday citizens getting involved and reporting on issues that corporate media cannot or will not address.
The central points made are valid, but we always need to be skeptical of organizations that seek to collate information and “vet it for accuracy” – in this case a monitoring program called Syria Tracker. While clearly there is a need to verify sources and separate propaganda from real news, Index on Censorship has received some questionable funding which you can view here – one source is George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.
To give the benefit of the doubt, perhaps IOC is not aware of the blood attached to the money they have received. However, there is in fact a well-documented human rights scam that muddies the waters of all official reporting, even reports that come from seemingly well-intentioned NGOs. Tony Cartalucci’s excellent article “Soros Criminal Conviction Exposes Human Rights Scam” thoroughly addresses this issue.
Nevertheless, as the corporate/government media continues its attempts to outlaw independent journalism, continues to purchase and/or create NGO movements, and begins equating the denouncing of terrorism with terrorism itself (see the story of SyrianGirl here) it is of paramount importance that citizens step up and become the media that they wish to see in the world.
Citizen reporters are increasingly getting stories out of remote areas of Syria, which are difficult for traditional media to reach during the conflict, according to data collated for Index on Censorship magazine.
It showed more reports were coming from citizen journalists than traditional media, in all areas of the country, with the exception of Homs.
Index on Censorship magazine worked with Syria Tracker, the independent news tracker, which has scanned 160,000 news reports and social media updates to look at the scale of citizen journalism.
Syria Tracker verifies and analyses data before publishing on its own website. Only 6 per cent of data is considered to be well enough sourced to be published.
“Syria Tracker monitors 2,000 different news sources, including pro-regime outlets. Add to this 80 million social media updates and 4,000 eyewitness reports, and you can draw some interesting conclusions,” according to Index on Censorship’s deputy editor and author of the article, Vicky Baker.
“For example, female deaths at the beginning of the conflict totalled one per cent, but then sharply rose to reach 18 per cent – clearly suggesting a point where citizens became targeted and were not collateral damage. This data analysis has also shown that children make up 11 per cent of all documented killings in Syria – with reports suggesting they have been targeted while at school, at home and while waiting in bread lines.”
“These sort of projects are vital to worldwide news organisations and, when aided by data journalism, can help us gain a fuller picture of the devastation being wrought,” Baker says.
Syria Tracker has been hacked and targeted with threats; some of its citizen reporters are missing, possibly dead. If citizens had abandoned the project a few months after the 2011 launch (as was anticipated), our understanding of events between Syria’s borders would be even more limited.
Tass Kass-Hout, Syria Tracker’s founder, said the work was relentless, and like a hurricane happening every minute. Yet Syria Tracker provides another tool for those attempting to piece together the full picture of what is happening during the war. “This is not a clinical trial,” says Kass-Hout. “We are telling a story, it’s a living record.”
Few professional journalists can reach remote regions of Syria. Instead thousands of citizens are helping to get the news of the devastation out. To date, Syria Tracker has mapped over 4,000 geotagged verified eyewitness reports, and uses large-scale data mining to scan news reports and social media updates. Only verified data are published – around six percent of what Syria Tracker receives. Manual checking can take several days, and includes correlating nearby reports and sometimes involves scanning gruesome and shaky video footage. Members of the core team work two to three hours each day in addition to their day jobs.
Syria Tracker offers us a window into the future of journalism, in particular war reporting, says Baker. International press and aid organizations are unable to rely on their own personnel on the ground, and so the world is looking to citizen journalism and crowdsourcing more than ever. Data compiled for Index on Censorship showed that the majority of news reports (June 2011 to Feb 2014) outside Homs were sourced via crowdsourcing, rather than traditional news journalism. For instance in Aleppo, 184 reports came from news articles, and 18,776 from crowd sourcing, according Syria Tracker data.
- Numbers of deaths of women has risen from 1% to 18% of total
- Data journalism is helping to create a fuller picture of what is happening in danger zones
If you would like a copy of the data mapping then please contact Katie Baker, [email protected]
Index on Censorship is an international organization that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression. The inspiration of poet Stephen Spender, Index was founded in 1972 to publish the untold stories of dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. Today, we fight for free speech around the world, challenging censorship whenever and wherever it occurs.
Index uses a unique combination of journalism, campaigning and advocacy to defend freedom of expression for those facing censorship and repression, including journalists, writers, social media users, bloggers, artists, politicians, scientists, academics, activists and citizens.
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