Citizen journalism has been changing the media landscape since the rise of blogs in the late 90′s. This was further accelerated by the Arab Spring. It has moved from a nuisance to the only source of information where access is impossible for traditional media.
It was citizen journalists who brought us pictures and videos from Libya when journalists were unable to gain access to the country. It is still citizen journalists who provide us with almost all content from Syria. We see amateur videos on major broadcasters such Aljazeera, simply because, professional journalists aren’t able to gain access.
This is why in Sudan, and as the government continues its crackdown on media and journalists, citizen journalism becomes more important than ever. The government of Sudan recognizes the threat from citizen journalists and is actively targeting them. Them is a select few. Very few.
Unlike in more affluent countries or cities, smartphones with cameras is not as easily affordable by college students and the likes. It’s a luxury not many can afford. It is also the first thing that gets confiscated when you are detained in a protest. Many simply leave their mobile phones at home.
Khalid Al Baih (@khalidalbaih), a political cartoonist who created the image used here, was once trying to shoot a video with his phone during a protest in Khartoum when the police shot a tear gas canister directly at him. They take it very seriously.
This is why the prolonged detention of people like Usamah Mohammed (@simsimt) is particularly worrying. He is not detained because of his political affiliation (which he has none), or for protesting (typical detention for protesting doesn’t last more than a day). He is perceived as a very serious threat as a citizen journalist.
Usamah’s last tweet, minutes before his arrest tells you just the kind of person he is and what he stands for:
Btw, I’m just being technical. You can use my tweets without even mentioning me. Free content advocate here!
— Usamah Mohd. (@simsimt) June 22, 2012
We are trying to put together a video about citizen journalism and its importance, particularly in covering the ongoing protests in Sudan.
We ask you to take a few minutes of your time and record a short video about the importance of citizen journalism in your field of work. How it helps you learn things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. If you wish to mention Usamah by name, we encourage you to but you don’t have to.
Send your video recordings to freeusamah (at) sudanwatch dot com.