27 Mar 2012

Syria’s video journalists battle to tell the ‘truth’

The assault on Homs by Syrian government forces has spawned a wave of video journalism by amateur filmmakers, determined to bear witness to what is happening – even if it means embellishing events.

Reports say President Bashar al-Assad’s government has agreed to accept UN envoy Kofi Annan’s proposals to end the violence and bloodshed in Syria.

Meanwhile, clashes between Syrian troops and rebels are reported to have spilled over into Lebanon, where the regime’s opponents had taken refuge. The legacy of Syria’s year-long revolt may take more than Mr Annan’s six-point peace plan to assuage.

Since the beginning of 2011, the protesters and revolutionaries behind the Arab Spring uprisings have used a variety of methods to put their message across.

Facebook and other social media were a vital tool in the Egyptian protests. In Libya, a wave of street graffiti testified to Colonel Gaddafi‘s dwindling authority. Syria’s bloody civil war, meanwhile, has spawned the video activist.

For the accompanying film, French photo-journalist Mani embedded himself in Homs – the focus of opposition to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad – where a group of amateur video journalists (VJs) is using YouTube and other film outlets to bear witness to authorities’ brutal crackdown on opponents.

Read more: Video journalists leading Syria's media revolution

The VJs are not trained journalists, but they are desperate to put their message across. At one point in the film, they are shown embellishing their film by adding special effects – a smoking backdrop – to one of their films.

Omar Telawi (pictured below), the VJ responsible, makes no apology for doing so. He told Channel 4 News the residents of Homs are surrounded, their city is being pounded, and the rebels want the world to take notice.

The Syrian regime knows how influential the VJs have become. It is targeting them physically, but also jamming vital internet connections and satellite signals.

Last November Omar Talawi survived an assassination attempt. Another, Danny Abdul Dayem, has become a hate figure for the Assad regime.

Abu al-Zayn, also featured in the accompanying report, was shot in the neck and jaw recently by a government sniper . Undaunted, though, he is now back on the streets with his camera.