“Filming ends up in arresting or killing the reporter”
Syrian citizen- journalism against the regime’s blackout
It was March 2011 when some kids from the city of Dara'a, imitating what was going on in Egypt and Tunesia, scrawled a graffiti which claimed: “the people want the fall of the regime”. The minors-among 10 and 15 years old- were automatically arrested and tortured, which led to the first protests against the brutal behaviour of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The lethal response of the armed forces against those demonstrators provoked the first victims of repression and violence.
Since then, protests all around the country began to intesify as well as the media blackout: the regime sealed off the country to reporters. “It was time to act” must have thought the activists who dared to set up the citizen-media Deir Press Network, born in Deir Ezzor City with the objective of shedding a light to the informative blackout carried out under the regime of Al-Assad. Using the video as an instrument of social complaint, they rapidly spread the atrocities lived by the Syrian population through the social networks . Now, a year later, this group of activists and reporters are running their own satellite channel through which they have gained enough credibility to also cater news for international TV channels.
How would you define DPN? Which is your mission?
D.P.N: We are a media staff includes activists and reporters on the ground who provide breaking news and broadcast media. The network has got credibility since March 2011, when events started off in Syria.
Our mission is to cover the events taking place in Deir Ezzor City and Countryside with honesty and integrity.
How did you enterpreneur this project?
D.P.N: Given the disinformation by the government, we - a few activists - found it a demand to publish real news and videos of popular demonstrations and - when possible the regime violations. We began as a Facebook page, then established a website and a forum. Lately, we have our own satellite channel. We set up an iPhone app for people outside the Middle East to be able to watch the channel. Also, we have an English Facebook page, through it we try to publish the martyrs news, Summary of Events and the regime violations; mainly in Deir Ezzor.
Which are your roles?
D.P.N: We are divided into specialized groups. The design group takes care of the graphic design and the video materials. Correspondents group - on the ground -reports the breaking news and films videos. They transfer news and videos to a secret group which includes the administrative staff who, in turn, publishes news on the Facebook page, the website, and the satellite channel. We, as well, transfer news to other media interested in Syrian affairs, like Al Jazeera Channel, because they don't have their own correspondents inside Syria. We usually exchange roles to provide a full time coverage. Moreover, we have a group specialized in live broadcasting to the satellite channels; and a technical group.
How is the media blackout in Syria carried out?
D.P.N: It is running by the state media. They are falsifying the truth in favor of the regime, and covering its violations and crimes against the peaceful people. Sometimes, the regime means to perpetrate attacks against people and properties, then its media shows that violations made by "anti-regime armed gangs". No foreign journalists are allowed to cover news in Syria.
Reporting and filming news and protests have been considered a crime and it ends up in arresting or killing the reporter. You use false names in order to protect your families...
D.P.N: Absolutely. We use false names to protect our families and to maintain the continuity of our efforts in supporting the peaceful revolution.
Which are the risk one can run when filming and smuggling videos?
D.P.N: The cameraman and anyone involves could be killed. Beside that, the camera - usually, the phone - would be used to reveal a wide network of activists.
How did you learn to camouflage the footage?
D.P.N: Usually, we look up any new skill. Our technical group use to teach other members how to edit and process videos.
Syria has banned the use of iPhones in order to stop the growing citizen journalism, which kind of devices do you use to record?
D.P.N: We are sorry. We can't answer this question in order to ensure the continuity of our work.
Some of your colleagues have been imprisioned...
D.P.N: Many of our friends have been arrested. Few were released. Some of them got permanent disabilities. Some was executed, such as activist Abdurrazzaq Ad-Darweesh who used to appear on satellite channels talking about the regime violations in his town, Al-Quria.
How does “The Syrian Electronic Army” behave? Have you ever received ciber attacks on your facebook page?
D.P.N: Their behavior is stupid; their tricks and tools are silly. During the last June, they were able to close our page through reporting it, but we could redeem it soon. Few days ago, our website was targeted by a cyber attack, but we could fix the problem in few hours.
How did you get people to participate in this citizen-journalist network? How does this network works? How many volunteers do you have?
D.P.N: Any activist can participate by sending pictures and videos to our email. Then, according to his activity and our need, we may have him in our team.
Activists got to know each other during the demonstrations. So, they know how to contact us through our guys on the ground. Our activists, in turn, know how to communicate with the proper persons depending on their qualifications, their ability to commit, their sense of responsibility and our need.
We have about 75 volunteers in Deir Ezzor Province.
In which way are your videos influencing global coverage on Syria?
D.P.N: Due to the lack of official reporters, videos play a major role in the news. As well, leaked videos - filmed by regime's personnel -are clear evidences of their crimes.
What is the power of information in an armed conflict? How would you value citizen journalism?
D.P.N: There is no armed conflict in Syria; there is the Free Syrian Army who is trying to protect citizens. The citizen journalism plays a unique role in exposing the regime crimes against the peaceful unarmed people. So, we hope to draw the international attention to our cause, and put more pressure on Al-Assad's regime.
Do you receive any donation from abroad?
D.P.N: Yes, we get some financial aids through our friends abroad to provide equipments for the activists on the ground.
What do you envision for Syria?
D.P.N: The regime lost his legitimacy with the first drop of blood in Dara'a. And It would be toppled sooner or later. We just need the international community to have a firm stand against this criminal gang.
What are your future plans for DPN? And for yourselves?
D.P.N: Our plan is to fulfill our commitment toward our mission and our people until toppling the regime.
-Picture retrived from Deir Press Network page
Written by Nuria García Reche