Rawporter.com: An Important Tool for The Arab Spring




     The Arab Spring is an information war.  Revolutionaries and regimes are in a desperate struggle to outwit, outlast, and out-tech each other.  When revolutionaries use cell phones, the regimes jam the signal. When they use the internet, the regime shuts it down.  Leaflets, posters, and using word-of-mouth to organize protests is 20th century activism.  We are in the 21st century and this is the time of Facebook and Twitter; 100,000 people can be rallied in an hour’s notice.
     Part of the information war is the media campaign, begun by the Tunisians and Egyptians, perfected by the Libyans, and mastered by the Syrians.  Combat and casualties are uploaded to the internet by the end of the day to both shock the world and increase recruitment to the rebel ranks.  As Homs is shelled by Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, activists halfway around the world can watch it streaming live over the internet.
     Exposing the tactics, crimes, and atrocities of these regimes, especially in Syria, is essential to provoking international outrage so that public opinion sways enough to make international intervention politically feasible.  Few Americans and Europeans have the appetite for risking blood and treasure in another Arab conflict, but if they see enough bloodshed on their televisions night after night and enough of them demand action it reduces the risk for politicians enough that they can support assisting the rebels with the backing of their constituents.
     But how can the media get the video and photos necessary to make this happen?  They certainly aren’t going to get enough by being on the ground.  Sending a correspondent, camera man, and ex-military security advisor to Syria is expensive and dangerous, and there aren’t enough freelance journalists to cover the conflict.  Journalists enter and leave Syria daily, offering just a temporary glimpse into a conflict that has raged for over a year.
     What Libya showed us, and what Syria has taken to a whole new level, is that the story of these wars is best told through the camera lenses of those on the ground – the protestors, the activists, and yes, the combatants with their guns in one hand and cell phone cameras in the other.
I know this from personal experience.  I was one of those men with a gun in one hand and camera in the other in Libya, where I fought and filmed, shooting the enemy with both my Kalashnikov and Sony HD video camera.  The wars in Libya and Syria are probably the most filmed in history because so many fighters are also filming (perhaps most of them), usually with cell phones and often at great risk to themselves so that they can document history as they make it.
     So when Rawporter.com approached me in May, 2012 asking me if I would endorse their services, it was a natural fit with my work, goals, and vision.  Rawporter.com has created a way to get raw video and photos from the front lines to the international media quickly and efficiently.  Unlike general video sharing sites like YouTube where media organizations face extreme difficulty ascertaining authenticity and copyright issues, Rawporter.com is a professional resource to connect media organizations with people on the ground in the places where the news is being made.
     For example, a Syrian activist can film Assad’s artillery shelling his neighborhood in Aleppo and then instantly upload that footage to Rawporter.com.  Media organizations like BBC, France 24, CNN, or Al Jazeera can quickly search for video of the shelling of Aleppo and, for a small price (whatever the Syrian activist chooses to charge), legally purchase the right to use that footage on the air.
     But it also works the other way.  If the news network wants something specific – like footage of Syrian rebels fighting in Damascus on a particular day, rebels firing anti-aircraft weapons at Assad’s Russian helicopters, or even a short interview with a civilian or fighter – the news network can post an assignment to Rawporter.com and have Syrian activists on the ground go and film the requested video for them.  The news networks pay a small fee to the activist whose footage they use.
     Newspapers and websites can also use Rawporter.com for photographs.  Rawporter.com gives these media organizations an instant army of photographers and videographers on the ground in the Arab Spring.  This is an extremely powerful resource that could be a game changer for the Arab Spring.
     I believe that Rawporter.com is a powerful tool for the Arab Spring and am pleased to enthusiastically endorse their service.  I am highly selective about which companies I endorse and I won’t vouch for or promote any product I don’t believe in, even if paid for it.  In the case of Rawporter.com it is the perfect technology for the perfect time, an innovation that has the potential to revolutionize the revolutions.


You can find a sample of photos and videos that I shot in Libya while fighting in the war in 2011, as well as photos and videos from my recent return trip to Libya in June, 2012 while working for After The Revolution, the NGO I founded to provide mental health services for Arab Spring combat veterans.  This collection of combat footage, interviews, and photos from the election campaigns can be found at http://www.rawporter.com/pm/matthewvandyke/

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