Social Media Knowledge Exchange

Exposing state crime through citizen journalism – workshop series

In collaboration with the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) at QMUL we organised two workshops for graduate students and researchers exploring the challenges of Citizen Journalism. The workshops, which were held at QMUL on 22 February and Cambridge on 7 March explored case studies from Burma, Egypt and Syria with researchers and human rights activists.

Through the sourcing of online information and hands-on engagement with data relating to the case studies, workshop participants were able to better understand “crowd-powered” evidence gathering practices as well as some of the challenges confronting citizen journalists. Participants investigated how search-engine driven online research obscured as well as revealed information, and discussed the relationship between repressive regimes’ efforts to police mainstream or traditional journalism interacts with citizen journalism. We explored the challenges of triangulating sources from eyewitnesses with online information, and the difficulties that human rights activists face in countries such as Burma where relatively low levels of internet use and lack of access by the media to communities threatened by state violence.

We found a different set of problems in relation to the tasks for the practical element of our Egypt case study: arising out of the difficulties of verifying data on human rights violations in a context where a large volume of misinformation, rather than lack of information is one of the principal challenges. Participants worked in groups and individually to source online material for an infographic on violations of academic freedoms in Egypt and discussed their findings with the case study presenters.