Syrians turn to citizen journalism as state media fail to inform

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In Syria, citizen journalism has perhaps become the most trusted primary source Syrians turn to as an alternative to state media during the uprising. Official media are often blamed by activists and even pro-government onlookers for failing to do their reporting duties.

Suicide bombings that shifted into the capital Damascus in the past week were not reported by the Syrian media as state TV and radios stuck to their regular programing, broadcasting their regular entertainment shows and dodging reports on the casualties and aftermath damage.

More than seven suburbs in Damascus witnessed explosions within a week, but the official media only reported on two.

“Our [Syrian] media now only report on the explosions which take place in the center of the capital, and when we hear any sort of nearby explosion we turn to the different local Facebook newsgroups,” a Syrian journalist, working for a government media outlet, told Al Arabiya English under the condition of anonymity.

“We are lacking war reporters … our journalists should not wait to obtain permission from the Syrian information ministry to go to the streets and cover events that have led to spilled Syrian blood. This is a brutal war, no permission is needed when blood is splashing across the streets of our country,” the journalist added.

It’s a law the local Syrian media abide by before being allowed to use their cameras to cover any story to be aired. The majority of citizens learned about the three suicide bombs on Monday from Facebook groups, including Jaramanah News and Damascus Now, since the three official Syrian TV news stations (Al Akhbaryia, Syrian Satilies Station, and Samaa) ignored the coverage, according to Syrian citizens interviewed by Al Arabiya English.

One Damascus citizen said she had tuned in to watch the official Syrian TV on Monday to see the cause of a blast she had heard, but found no reports of the attack and instead saw a comedy play being broadcasted on the screen.

Although a new Syrian media law was put to effect late last year emphasizing the critical need to be honest and strong to report on the truth, many argue the media have done otherwise.

Lailah, a citizen of the affected area of Jarmanah, where the most recent bomb blasted in the Syrian capital, expressed her frustration with the performance of the local media, saying: “If I opened my own station I assure you I would have more news to report on and will do a much better job than what this so-called media are doing.”

And the local journalist concurs with Lailah’s irritation with the media.

“We hear of a bomb through Facebook or receiving calls from family and friends to check if we are alive, but we carry on with our broadcasting through TV and radio without acknowledging the fact that we just lost a dozen of Syrians if not more … instead the news is reported in the outside world, where a better job is being done of reporting about what’s happening in Syria,” said the unnamed Syrian journalist.

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