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Syrian 'Citizen Journalists' Use Social Media to Spread News

Social media networks have come to play an important part in the political unrest in Syria. The Syrian government barred most media from the country after the unrest began a year ago. But that has not stopped Syrians from getting out information to the rest of the world. Many Syrians have turned to social media like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to help spread reports about what is happening in the country. Hundreds, possibly thousands of videos have appeared on YouTube and other social media sites in the past few weeks.

With few foreign reporters in Syria, social media have become a major tool for telling the world what is happening. Many news organizations have had to depend on reports and videos from people they call citizen journalists.Emanuelle Esposti is a blogger in Britain who has been studying the use of such videos by foreign media. She says it is very difficult to know where a video has actually come from or who made it or why. In early March Syria's deputy oil minister resigned to join the opposition.

In a video on YouTube, Abdo Husameddine had a message for the government of President Bashar al-Assad. He said it had, in his words, "brought a year of sadness and misery to those you claim to be your people." He also said the government had deprived its people of basic needs and humanity and brought the country to the edge of disaster.

Abdo Husameddine was the highest official to leave the government since the unrest began. In the video he urged other Syrian officials to resign. Syrian opposition activist Abdi Hakim Ijburi also knows about the importance of social media. He used social media to contact other opponents of the government. He says many of them wanted to hold protests like those that took place in Egypt and Tunisia. "At first, we started using Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to get a group of young people and activists together," he says. "And from that group we started organizing." In his hometown, activists started writing anti-government graffiti on walls.

Abdi Hakim Ijburi says that as the protests grew, he was captured and tortured. He escaped to Lebanon, like thousands of other Syrians. He says there were lots of people in his hometown that he did not even know were part of the opposition movement, or sympathetic to that movement. In his words, "If it hadn't been for the social media we wouldn't have become united."

For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal.