CAIRO — In an interview this week at his home here in the Egyptian capital, the British-Syrian activist Rami Jarrah described ambitious plans to create an Internet news network, with radio broadcasts and live video streams of daily life inside rebel-held territory, to offer an alternative to Syria’s state-controlled media.
Mr. Jarrah, who used the pseudonym Alexander Page to conceal his identity before he was forced to flee Syria last year, described the effort to transform a network of activists using video cameras to document the uprising into citizen journalists, whose work could eventually replace that of the state news agency, should President Bashar al-Assad be forced from power.
Speaking to The Lede as his young daughter played nearby, Mr. Jarrah described his initial efforts to document the first protests in Damascus last year on video, and how that work eventually compromised his own security.
In the second part of the interview, Mr. Jarrah explained that he helped form the Activists News Association to assist and coordinate the efforts of citizen journalists inside Syria after he arrived in Cairo. He noted that the effort was stimulated in part by watching as state-controlled television channels in Egypt turned against the revolution there and demonized Egyptian activists.
Mr. Jarrah went on to describe plans to move from using his group’s Facebook page and Twitter feed just to draw attention to clips of protests and violence to broadcasting news and information to Syrians on both sides of the conflict. In addition to streaming live video of life in parts of the country outside government control, the group is working to set up Radio ANA, a new Internet radio station, with financial support from international aid groups.
He stressed the importance of moving beyond just documenting the crackdown on dissent and beginning to reach out to Syrians who might still support the government. “I think we’ve reached a point where we don’t need to over-exaggerate any more,” he said. “There was a need to over-exaggerate at some stage, because you’re up against a government that is willing to say anything, to demolish what’s happening.”
In the final part of the interview, Mr. Jarrah spoke about his group’s efforts to verify video of events recorded inside Syria by eyewitnesses, including members of pro-government militias and the security forces, and filter out clips that might not be accurate.
“Assad’s going to fall,” Mr. Jarrah asserted near the end of the conversation. “I think the question is, Is Syria going to fall with him or not? And as a Syrian citizen against Assad, I think I have a duty to work as hard as possible on Syria remaining intact.”
Despite fearing that the collapse of the government, led by the minority Alawite sect, could increase the likelihood of a protracted sectarian conflict, the activist concluded: “I think there’s lots of scenarios and I’m not sure where we’re headed, but one thing we’re sure of is that we can’t go back.”
Source: New York Times