8/29/13

Citizen Journalists Die 3:1 In Syria News Coverage - Citizen Journalists Need to be Respected (and Covered by National Shield Law)

Last February, I wrote about a man who died in Syria named Rami Ahmad Al-Sayed, a citizen journalist who published a blog with both videos and posts as he tried to get the message out to the rest of the world about what was happening in his hometown.

He died at the age of 27 years old, and I have no idea what has happened to his wife and baby daughter.

This week, I discovered that the Pew Research Center has been tracking what has been happening to these ordinary folk, like Mr. Al-Sayed, who are reporting without benefit of journalistic education or experience.  According to Pew, lots of these people are not only risking their lives in getting the truth out, as they understand it to be, but they are dying in the process.

Consider the following infographic provided by Pew:


That's right:  73% of the media-related deaths in Syria are those of citizen journalists.  In fact, the Pew research reveals that circumstances being what they are in Syria, traditional journalists have come to rely on the citizen journalist more and more for information and verification of what is happening there.

Read the complete Pew Research story here, entitled "Another casualty of war in Syria—citizen journalists."

Are Citizen Journalists Doing the Work of a Journalist?  

Which brings me to the recent debate over a national shield law and one proposition that shield law protections should be given to "journalists" as that job title is defined by statute, and part of that definition should be that a "journalist" is someone who draws a salary to do their journalism job.

Techdirt has some nice coverage and commentary of that debate here.  So does Professor Larry in a Huffington Post piece.

Considering the Pew research, I'm thinking that bloodshed or the risking of one's person or life or liberty to report the truth to others should carry some weight regarding being legally protected as a journalist, too.

Sure, the Syrian example comes from another country, and I'm not rabbit trailing down that political road.  My point is that citizen journalists perform a job that is a part of journalism today, no matter where they work.

May God forbid that we ever see U.S. citizen journalists exposed to the dangers that this Pew research reflects; however, I am secure in my belief that here in the United States we have citizen journalists just as dedicated as those working in the Middle East today.

Citizen journalists are important to our society, to insure that the truth is revealed.  They deserve respect and recognition - including protection by a federal shield law.

Bloggers aren't just ranting about celebrities or kids or sharing recipes and DIY projects anymore - does Congress realize this?
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