The Documentalist

Video Witnessing in Syria

Posted in News by Sarah on June 25, 2011

Liam Stack’s June 18, 2011  New York Times article, “Activists Using Video to Bear Witness in Syria” describes Syrian activists’ efforts to draw attention to a three-month-old popular uprising that is getting little accurate press coverage.  As described in the article, Syrian media is not covering events accurately, while foreign media representatives are barred from entering the country to report on events.  The solution that the activists have hit upon is to upload video footage to YouTube and Facebook whenever possible–a difficult feat given the rolling internet blackouts that the country is experiencing as the government tries to quash electronic communication about the rebellion against the Assad family, which has ruled Syria for 40 years.

Like the other events of the Arab Spring, digital communication is proving to be an important tool for Syrians trying to gain freedom from widespread illegal acts carried out by their government.  Social media serves a fundamental role in circumventing the government’s heavy-handed attempts at silencing protest, as well as accurate coverage of events there.  As stated in Stack’s article:

The operation here, which started in March, has grown in importance in the last two weeks, since Syrian forces moved into the [Turkish border] region with tanks, artillery and helicopter gunships. By this weekend [June 18, 2011], the activists had loaded more than 250 videos onto their YouTube channel, Freedom4566, which have been viewed more than 220,000 times.

Hiding behind shuttered windows, down dark alleys or on hilltops high above besieged towns, the activists shoot video of the security forces as they push the violent crackdown across Syria’s rural northwest. The men (none of the activists in the media center are women) upload their videos to social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, which Mr. Saeb praises as “the most realistic.”

The material the present reflects that:

Their cameras captured armored trucks whizzing through the streets and fires burning the valley’s slender evergreens, which they said were set ablaze by the army. By afternoon the smoke could also be seen from the tent city below the media center.

The hope of the “cyberactivists” (as they are referred to in the article) is that posting the videos of events they have witnessed to popular social media sites will draw the world’s attention to what is happening in Syria.


Librarian at New Mexico State Archives Media on Juarez Killings

Posted in News by Sarah on June 16, 2010

As reported in the Wall Street Journal article “A Gruesome Reckoning: Librarian Sifts Mexican Press to Tally Drug-Cartel-Related Killings in Juárez,” Latin American Librarian Molly Molloy works through daily media reports to try to keep a tally of the number of dead resulting from cartel violence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.  Her efforts are a response to the fact that there is no official count of cartel-related homicides in Juárez, as the police are somehow unable it keep up with them.  In fact, many of the deaths are not attributed to drug-related violence until evidence comes out in the media.  Thus Ms. Molloy sifts through print and online news paper reports on Juárez to create her tally–a tally that US authorities, scholars, and human rights activists have come to depend upon as a reliable source of data on the problems in that city.    According the the article, Ms. Molloy processes news reports daily and sends out an email digest summarizing events and presenting updated counts.  She also keeps an on-line archive of the newspaper media she processes in her effort .  Parties interested in receiving her digests can subscribe to her email list, which can be found at New Mexico State University’s Internet Resources for Latin America.  As stated in the article:

More than 300 people subscribe to Ms. Molloy’s daily news and analysis emails, including congressional staff, U.S. and Mexican human-rights watchdogs, local and international reporters, and border observers from as far away as Norway.

U.S. reporters covering crime elsewhere in Mexico bemoan the lack of tools like Ms. Molloy’s emails.

“It’s really frustrating not knowing what is going on,” said Jared Taylor, a crime reporter at the Monitor newspaper in McAllen, Texas, just across the border from Reynosa, Mexico. Local crime reports are getting thin in Reynosa as journalists themselves become drug-cartel targets, as they have in other cities in northeastern Mexico.

Ms. Molloy consults a stream of articles online from her home in New Mexico, as well as copies of newspapers she purchases during trips to Juárez, where reporters are still covering drug-related crime. She copies relevant articles into an online archive, which she uses to compose her email reports.

Read the full article here for more detail.

Questions Regarding Disposition of ICTR Archives

Posted in News by Sarah on April 9, 2010

As the UN wraps up its first instances of trials in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the question has come up concerning where to house the archives generated by these proceedings.  The UN had originally thought to house them in Europe or Tanzania, but Rwanda would like to see the archives housed in Kigali so that they can form part of the nation’s memory of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.  See the entire article excerpted below by clicking on the title link.



Kigali, April 6, 2010 (FH) – Rwanda has insisted that all archives of the 1994 genocide should be hosted by Kigali, including that of the Arusha based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Making his opening remarks at the symposium on genocide against Tutsis on Monday, Rwanda’s Minister for Sports and Culture Joseph Habineza said all efforts should be made to preserve whatever was available after the genocide.

‘’I heard that ICTR archives could be preserved either in Europe or Tanzania. Why? They are our archives and we want them here [Rwanda],” the Minister emphasized before the participants at the Serena Hotel.