Prior to the invention of smartphones and other forms of wireless communication, the way that people transferred important news and information in general was in person and via face to face interactions, this was where people would recount events and retell stories from their own unique perspective.
Examples of this include Roman bath houses in 354AD where people of all social classes would unite to discuss topics ranging from political matters to everyday life. At this time, oral communication was the main way that information was spread. Nowadays the options are much more wide in the way that we are able to consume news and even present it ourselves from the comfort of our own home.
When discussing the reporting of news and the ways that people spread information globally it’s imperative to mention social media. Prior to the growth of platforms such as Facebook & Twitter, citizen journalism was a form of spreading news that was extremely neglected due to the lack of a platform people with no background in the field had. Since then it has become a useful way for people to share videos, insights and their own take on many events and prominent figures around the world. While this can be useful in providing a voice to the voiceless, there are always an array of flaws that come with citizen journalism. Potentially the biggest downfall to citizen journalism is the lack of training involved in a person with no experience in the field recounting or detailing an event. Many journalists undertake the responsibility to cover news and detail events as truthfully and as accurately as they can, to many who cover the news “accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built” (PEW Research Journalism Project 2013). Almost every form of citizen journalist is therefore taken with a grain of salt due to the chances of the story being fabricated or exaggerated to suit the agenda or narrative of the individual covering a story.
Citizen’s in Lebanon however have benefited greatly from citizen journalism in the nation. With censorship of the media being extremely prevalent within the political climate of the Middle Eastern nation, the people posting their experiences from a first hand perspective is a key way for the stories of civilians in the country to be globalised. An example of citizen journalism within the nation comes from DW Akademie, a European news broadcaster who covered a story in 2016 where it was detailed how an NGO called Basmeh and Zeitooneh (A Smile and an Olive) was training refugees in Lebanon to become citizen journalists in an environment where their story would typically not be told and they were able to detail their lives from the perspective of a refugee attempting to become a citizen in the nation. With the Directorate for General Security (DGSG, from Direction Générale de la Sûreté Générale) being the overseer for what is permitted for display in the nation it tarnishes the key values that journalists are told to represent. As journalist Doreen Khoury states that “censors decree that creative works should not “pose any danger or harm to Lebanon,” nor should they upset “political or military sensitivities” or incite “sectarian or factional discord.””.
With such a tight grip on what is presented to the wider audience of the nation, it is growing difficult to ensure that the truth is being shown to the general public and that stories being put forward are accurate and trustworthy, giving citizen journalists in the nation the large task of upholding the truth in all ways they can.
- American Press Association. 2020. Principles Of Journalism | American Press Association. [online] Available at: <https://americanpressassociation.com/principles-of-journalism/> [Accessed 20 August 2020].
- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 2020. Cut It Out: Censorship in Lebanon – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. [ONLINE] Available at: https://carnegieendowment.org/sada/48831. [Accessed 20 August 2020].
- Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com). 2020. Lebanon: Training young refugees to become citizen journalists | Middle East/North Africa | DW | 23.09.2016. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/lebanon-training-young-refugees-to-become-citizen-journalists/a-19038286. [Accessed 20 August 2020].