Abu-Fadil: Social Media a Double-Edged Sword in Syrian Conflict

How is the Syrian war playing out on social media? Are reports by citizen journalists and activists credible?

Is it “the most socially mediated civil conflict in history” and can we agree with a study’s conclusion that “social media have revolutionized the way that the world has understood the Syrian conflict?”

Screen shot of Syria's "Twitter Jihad"

Screen shot of Syria’s “Twitter Jihad”

According to Magda Abu-Fadil, social media are a double-edged sword.

“[Social media] help provide vital information that traditional media have been unable to obtain, but they also have misused it to disseminate disinformation,” says Abu-Fadil, a veteran journalist in the region. “One has to take it on a case-by–case basis.”

Read more from Media Unlimited’s director on media ethics, propaganda, information verification, photos and videos in “Syria’s ‘Twitter Jihad’: Social media is hardly immune from the fog of war,’ an article in Global Journalist. A [PDF] version is available here.

Major Change in Syria War Coverage

A tectonic shift has occurred for media coverage in Syria with information gathering and dissemination evolving from assigning correspondents to the conflict to relying on citizen journalists and content from social media.

“We’re being bombarded with messages from every direction at breakneck speed, the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil said.

Syria's civil war plays out on social media: AP

Syria’s civil war plays out on social media: AP

She told The Associated Press that as the conflict became more dangerous, legacy news organizations have had to turn to non-traditional means to fill their pages, air time and websites.

This has meant publishing and broadcasting text, photos and videos from ordinary citizens, activists, warriors and anybody with a mobile device, Internet connection or functioning telephone line.

 

 

Tripoli Trainees Jump on Citizen Journalism Bandwagon

Fourteen trainees learned how to become citizen journalists while maintaining professional and ethical standards during a workshop organized by the Lebanese Center for Active Citizenship.

The training in December 2012, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, touched on the evolution of modern journalism and how it gave rise to the form today practiced by ordinary citizens.

The Importance of Twitter in citizen journalism

Trainees acquired skills to help with effective coverage of events, through live blogging and vlogging, geographic positioning, and the importance of social media in instant dissemination of news.

Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil conducted the short course in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli that grouped 12 mass communication students from Al Jinan University and two social activists.

Magda Abu-Fadil with LCAC officials and trainees

Abu-Fadil advised the participants to keep their content short and clear, to use active verbs, to make sure their headlines are relevant and attractive, and, to use key words for easy search engine optimization.

She also stressed the importance of good visuals like photos and videos as well as infographics and simple language.

The attraction of photos and captions

Participants also discussed media standards and ethics with Abu-Fadil reminding them to be accurate, balanced, transparent, truthful, and not to lose sight of context.

Anba Moscow/Ria Novosti Journalists Upgrade Agency Online Skills

Seven journalists at Anba Moscow’s Dubai bureau underwent intensive training to upgrade their skills for the website maintained in Arabic by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

The journalists, who come from diverse backgrounds, attended a five-day workshop in October 2012 conducted by Media Unlimited director Magda Abu-Fadil on the needs of an international news agency, evolution of the media, and story structure in an online environment.

Anba Moscow trainees upgrade news agency online skills

Also on the agenda was the importance of solid headlines and leads, sources, types of wire stories and integration of social media into the mix for better audience engagement.

Magda Abu-Fadil with Anba Moscow team in Dubai

Abu-Fadil reminded the journalists of the need to maintain high ethical standards in their coverage.

They were provided tips on crises, sudden events, fieldwork, means of communication, safety measures and coordination between correspondents and their newsrooms.

Not to be overlooked, the Anba Moscow team was encouraged to make good use of infographics, photos, videos and audio clips, and develop interest in multimedia.