The case for learning to be a citizen journalist, wherever you live

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I live in the UK and so I sometimes wonder about the differences and similarities between what I might think of as citizen journalism in practice here and in the Arab region, or any other part of the world where people are using technologies for social or political change, to provide alternative media voices. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the skills required to report in this way are important in those countries, but maybe less so in ‘the west’. After all, how often do the issues of war-torn countries physically rub up against us in Europe?

And then, to challenge that idea of such a divide, and the notion that some parts of the world don’t need to learn citizen journalism, we have the journey of refugees from Syria through Europe.

Whilst images (from professional photographers, through mainstream media: see pic below) of Syria itself demonstrate the need for an understanding of why people have left their country, it is often citizens of Europe that are covering the travel and arrival of refugees (see bottom pic). These not only are able to offer representations of those people and their stories (when they may not be able to do so themselves), but also reflect the European citizens’ responses – either in the way they choose to film, frame, etc their photos or video, or by directly talking to camera or including themselves in part of the narrative, showing Europeans and Syrians together. Whether they consciously realise it, they are doing citizen journalism, tackling the idea that war-torn Syria is an ‘over there’ problem that the world can conveniently ignore.

A man scours rubble in Aleppo. Photo: Pablo Tosco / AFP / Getty Images

A man scours rubble in Aleppo. Photo: Pablo Tosco / AFP / Getty Images