Dissidents form 'media center' on Turkish border

Young Syrians brave regime's wrath to report repression

GMT 08:37 2011 Saturday ,18 June

Arab Today, arab today Young Syrians brave regime's wrath to report repression

Anti-government protests began in March
Guvecci, Turkey - Arabstoday

Anti-government protests began in March Guvecci, Turkey - Arabstoday Young Syrian activists have taken on a mission to inform the world about bloody repression in their country, defying the regime's restrictions on the media and risking their lives. In a makeshift "media centre", confined to a tiny room at a secret location near the Turkish-Syrian border, dissidents gather pictures and footage posted by protesters across Syria, and then publish them online. A television set, a printer, four laptops, several mobile phones and an Internet connection is all they have, along with their courage. They have learned by experience that recording the turmoil in a country where journalists are not allowed to circulate freely could be a fatal act of defiance. Hussein, one of the activists at centre, saw his brother shot dead while filming a protest. The bloody episode, he says, has only stoked his determination to fight on. The security forces "opened fire cold-bloodedly on marching protesters. My brother was shooting the event and got killed. He is a hero, because he was hit while he was filming," he said, vowing to follow in his brother's footsteps. "We are exasperated with government oppression, corruption and poverty," he declared. Around 30 people work in the media centre, most of them from Jisr al-Shughur, the flashpoint town in northwest Syria, which was the scene of a major security crackdown that sent thousands fleeing to Turkey, only about 40 kilometres (25 miles) away. The main outlets for their videos and images are social media channels like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. "Since the government bars foreign journalists from the country, young people have now become de-facto journalists in every city. Some shoot videos, some make interviews and others post them via the Internet," another activist, Jelil, said. Jihad, a 28-year-old carpenter, is one of them. "My job is to send every video to various TV channels via Youtube. The videos are about events in our cities. They show what the security forces are doing, the protests and everything," he said, hiding his face behind a blue kefiyyeh. "I fear for my life, that's why I cover my face. But I don't do anything criminal. I'm just reporting on the events. I'm not a terrorist, or a gunman. I'm just one of those guys demanding freedom," he said. The "media centre" was first sending footage and images from protests, strikes and sit-ins. But as the repression grew violent, the activists began to announce killings and injuries. "We report about the view of the Syrian street about what's going on," Jelil said. The government has cut all communication channels to prevent the dissemination of videos and images online. The activists however have found a way to get round the restrictions, even though they would not reveal how. "The government considers every activity outside its control a terrorist act," Jelil said. "For the Syrian government, I'm like (Osama) Bin Laden," the late Al-Qaeda chief. Jihad takes over to recount how he narrowly escaped from the security forces. "They came to my house to take me. My wife warned me and I ran to the rooftop. Then I jumped to another rooftop and fled," he said. The bloody crackdown on protests, he argues, has radicalised the dissidents. "At the begining, our goal as young people was only freedom. But today, we want the fall of the regime -- our trust in them has vanished," he explained. Safety and secrecy is a priority for the activists. "We have to work at a secret place because the government began to target us once they realised what we were doing. They want to stop us and put us in jail," Hussein said.

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بناية النخيل - رأس النبع _ خلف السفارة الفرنسية _بيروت - لبنان
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