The Use of Citizen Journalism Increases Worldwide

The increase of technology and access to the internet across the globe has given citizens the ability to act as citizen journalists, capturing and sharing incidents with the general public that may have never been reported otherwise.

Citizen journalism is the act of ordinary people risking their lives to document events and actions using audios and visuals to report world events that may not have been known, Dr. Eleanor Novek, associate communication professor, said.

Novek’s Newswriting class discussed the use of citizen journalism worldwide during a panel presentation in the Global Understanding Convention. The class focused on citizen journalism in Ukraine, Pakistan, Iraq, Russia, Venezuela, America and Syria.

In Iraq there have been 14 media workers killed in the past six months, which is double the average amount of media workers killed in Iraq each year, Lexis Davenport, a senior communication major, said. Iraq faces many issues regarding unnecessary violence, and when journalists try to report this information many are threatened, jailed or killed.

To allow the public the opportunity to comprehend the amount of violence that the Iraqi people face each day a website titled, the Iraqi Body Count was created. The website, which was created after the 2003 military intervention is a compilation of reports from every day people living in Iraq, Davenport said.

In Syria, citizens are also in fear of violent governmental acts and journalists are at a constant risk of being threatened or jailed.

A Syrian citizen journalist fighting to end violence in Syria, named Alexander Page, is very passionate about sharing information with the public. Page said in a recent Facebook post, “It is pathetic to think that people’s voices can still be silenced through violence and intimidation.”

Page explained that everyone, regardless of the “democratic transition” they are involved with has the right to express themselves peacefully, therefore he posted, “When that right is not given to me, those who oppress me only justify my frustration.”

Page reports on events that he witnesses and other citizen journalist report in an effort to fight back against the oppression that the Syrian people face each day.

In Venezuela there are many laws in place that disables citizens from sharing news content, Alyssa Maurice, a junior communication major, said. The Radio and TV Electronic Media Social Responsibility law prevents the media from sharing information out of fear that they will be fined or lose their news outlet establishment, she explained.

Maurice said there have been nine journalists killed and over 180 imprisoned because of the information they published. “Because of [the law] established, credible news sources are refraining from putting any news out there because they don’t want to be fined or have their institution shut down completely,” said Maurice.

In response to this law, citizen journalism in Venezuela has become popular among residents. A Twitter account titled @ReporteYa, that reports information sent from citizen journalists, is the most well-known form of citizen journalism in Venezuela, Heather Muh, a junior communication major said.

In Ukraine there was a time when journalism was valued and not silenced, Madelyn Messina, a senior communication major, said. Although, after the government tried to control the type of news being reported, the accuracy and reliability of journalism in Ukraine began depleting.

In response to the Ukrainian government’s decision to corrupt journalist’s reports, citizen journalist was the only option for the Ukrainian people to let their voices be heard. Ever since, citizen journalism has become an increasingly more frequent source of information in Ukraine, Erin Masterson, a junior communication major, said.

The Ukrainian people are also cautious when reporting. “The citizen journalists working in Ukraine under attack and stress through the anti-government protests often fear for their lives,” said Masterson. “But they are still brave enough to try and let their stories be heard.”

The use of citizen journalism in Pakistan also faces condemnation, although due to the bravery of a young girl, the Pakistani citizens are beginning to adopt this form of information sharing.

In 2008 Malala Yousafzai, at only 15-years-old, began blogging for BBC about women’s inability to receive an education in Pakistan, said Amanda Kontor, a sophomore communication major. In 2012 Yousafzai was shot in the head because of her decision to speak out about the harsh measures that Pakistani women face.

Since Yousafzai’s attack, she has become well-known across the globe for her bravery and has inspired many citizen journalists to continue to let their voices be heard. In Pakistan there are several citizen journalism organizations that report the truth about the government and citizen oppression in Pakistan.

Faisal Kapadia, a well-known Pakistani citizen journalist, compiled information about the increase in citizen journalism in Pakistan and found that blogs are the second most visited site in Pakistan. The amount of ET Blog submissions doubled between 2011 and 2013 and the amount of page views increased from 12,000 to 18,000, said Kapadia.

In America, the government does not penalize journalists for reporting the truth therefore citizen journalists are not oppressed and has become increasingly popular among social media users, Katie Jaffe, a junior communication major, said.

One of the issues that are often discussed among citizen journalists in America that the students discussed was hydraulic fracturing (fracking). “Hydraulic fracturing is the process of extracting natural gas from the lower levels of the earth,” Rebecca Zidik, a junior communication major, said.

Fracking is done in people’s backyards, Katie Jaffe, a junior communication, said. In an effort to show the public how fracking actually works and the issues it creates every day people are photographing and posting information about their own experiences with fracking in America. There are also social media groups, such as New Yorkers Against Fracking, created in America that report this information to the public, she added.

“Pretty much everyone now has the means to report what is going on in the world around them,” Chris Measure said in an article posted on Social Media Today. “Even the most basic phone has a camera, and it is simple to post images, video and text to social media sites at the click of a button.”

As the use and need of citizen journalism increases worldwide, students are also recognizing the drive of this force even in America. J’Lyn Martin, a junior communication major, said he never realized the importance of citizen journalism around the world and feels that Americans often take their ability to post photos on social media for granted.

“I respect the impact that [citizen journalism] has more because for other countries it is all they have,” said Martin. “I feel like [citizen journalists] are the modern day heroes for their country because their police are supposed to protect them and they don’t.”

Anne Comba, a senior communication major, said she feels more compelled to participate in citizen journalism after learning the impact a photo or video can make in the news. “I probably would be more prone to taking a picture or posting something that I saw because now I know that it could help a real journalist or a professional journalist,” she said.

“Some people only ask others to do something,” Yousafzai said to the press when describing why she continues to speak against the laws prohibiting women to be educated in Pakistan. “I believe that, why should I wait for someone else? Why don’t I take a step and move forward.”

Yousafzai’s mentality is agreed with among the hundreds of citizen journalists worldwide who are putting their lives in danger to make a difference and stand up for what is right.