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Citizen journalism an effective tool in war-torn Syria


London, June 16 (IANS) Citizen reporters are increasingly getting stories out of remote areas of Syria that are difficult for traditional media to reach during the ongoing conflict, according to data collated for Index on Censorship magazine.

The magazine worked with Syria Tracker, an independent news tracker that has scanned 160,000 news reports and social media updates to look at the scale of citizen journalism.

"Syria Tracker monitors 2,000 different news sources, including pro-regime outlets. Add to this 80 million social media updates and 4,000 eyewitness reports, and you can draw some interesting conclusions," said Vicky Baker, deputy editor of Index on Censorship and lead author of the paper.

Syria Tracker has been hacked and targeted with threats; some of its citizen reporters are missing, possibly dead.

Yet Syria Tracker provides another tool for those attempting to piece together the full picture of what is happening during the war.

"This is not a clinical trial. We are telling a story, it is a living record," said Tass Kass-Hout, Syria Tracker’s founder.

According to Baker, "these sort of projects are vital to worldwide news organisations and, when aided by data journalism, can help us gain a fuller picture of the devastation being wrought."

Few professional journalists can reach remote regions of Syria. Instead thousands of citizens are helping to get the news of the devastation out.

Till date, Syria Tracker has mapped over 4,000 geo-tagged verified eyewitness reports and uses large-scale data mining to scan news reports and social media updates.

Only verified data are published – around six percent of what Syria Tracker receives, the paper said.

"Syria Tracker offers us a window into the future of journalism, in particular war reporting," Baker added.

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