Regime-enforced restrictions and the dangers of everyday life in Syria have led to a dramatic rise in the number of active individual citizen journalists. A citizen journalism group called the Local Coordination Committees of Syria comprises of 70 reporting groups who distribute news and organize events. They use a database to keep track of those killed in war. Rafif Jouejati, the LCCS spokeswoman located in DC stated, “The concept is that we will never again allow an uprising to be silenced and have nobody know anything about it.”
The US State Department cites and credits other citizen journalists who have made major discoveries. British blogger Eliot Higgins found that cluster bombs and barrel bombs used on citizens belong to the Assad regime. Higgins believes that his work is crucial, but knows that it cannot substitute the work of journalists on the ground. He uses social media to provide intelligence that effectively guides reporters away from danger. His communication system saves lives. “People need to start thinking about social media reports not as individual pieces of information, but as part of a network,” he says. The networks can be used to consolidate information that is directed to reporters on the ground.
Citizen journalism groups struggle with credibility. LCCS attempts to verify its facts with at least three different sources but tends to underreport because “we haven’t been able to 100 percent validate everything. And that’s why the death tolls we track are lower than what’s commonly accepted,” says Jouejati. Verifying reports by citizen journalists is also vital for mainstream reporters, who cannot report on the ground because of the restrictions placed on press coverage. Though political agenda still influences their output, mainstream journalists can gather information from trusted citizen sources as long as they verify the photos and stories with other independent eyewitness accounts.