More than 100,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. Almost two million have been forced to flee the country, most now living in refugee camps in neighbouring states. At least four million more have had to leave their homes because of the fighting and have become refugees in their own country.
Despite all this, remarkable numbers of journalists, civil society activists and human rights defenders in Syria continue working despite the perils they face.
As the conflict in Syria deepens, IWPR is extending its long-running programme to strengthen independent local voices and contribute to accountability and human rights in this extremely dangerous environment.
IWPR’s initial work, launched in 2007, sowed the seeds of a media movement in Syria, and made a major contribution to getting information out about the atrocities that have occurred since the 2011 uprising. The core work included providing training for journalists and civic activists in reporting skills and video journalism, with a strong focus on youth.
IWPR is now working across the rebel-controlled areas to build capacity for fledgling independent media, citizen reporters and journalists. This includes organising training, providing equipment and building networks.
As our programmes evolve, the basic objective remains the same: to support local efforts for freedom of expression, independent media and human rights. The overall goal is to empower Syrian citizens to contribute to a transition to a democratic, accountable system of government, and to a process of long-term reconciliation.
Main areas of work
IWPR’s core work of journalism training provides basic and more advanced instruction and mentoring in responsible reporting. The skills developed include neutral and objective reporting in a polarised environment, interviewing the survivors of and witnesses to atrocities, and critical reading of news and the images that accompany it. Other training sessions further enhance multimedia skills and the production, editing and verification of moving and still pictures.
Over the past five years, IWPR has worked with more than 300 journalists and citizen reporters.
We are supporting the development of new print and media outlets through the provision of training and equipment, and encouraging networks of journalists and civil society groups to collaborate for the benefit of the Syrian public.
Supporting Civil Society
IWPR is working with Syrian activists and local councils to help them begin planning for a transition from conflict to a more stable government and society, considering issues related to transitional justice. We are developing material and training for civil society around a variety of issues.
We have also published a Handbook on Transitional Justice, looking at future issues of governance, justice, retribution and reconciliation that Syrians are likely to face. Intended for journalists, citizens and activists in Syria, the book was written by a team of experts and discusses the nature of transitional justice, how it would fit within the Syrian context, and what lessons can be learnt from other regional countries.
Over the past three years, IWPR has helped Syrian journalists and activists protect their safety and make use of the latest technologies and practical methods so that they can communicate securely. To date, 120 participants have attended the regular courses and online classes. Information on digital security is made available on our resource on the evolving challenges in digital security, Cyber-Arabs. Produced in Arabic, Cyber-Arabs is designed to reach a broader audience of journalists across the Middle East, and the Cyber Arabs Facebook page has close to 50,000 followers across the Arab world. A dedicated team provides immediate feedback to journalists and activists on online security queries submitted to this page.
IWPR’s Syria programming helps citizen and traditional reporters secure broad platforms for their journalistic outputs, ensuring that their stories and multimedia content appear in Arabic and English in a range of online resources. As a showcase and platform for their work, IWPR created the Damascus Bureau, a hub for news on the uprising and the ensuing conflict; on the economic and social pressures affecting daily life; and on the possibility of political transition and the questions that will raise about governance, accountability and justice.
IWPR also trains and assists Syrian reporters in pitching stories and gaining access to other regional and international media platforms.
After an extensive mapping exercise, IWPR has produced a survey of the media landscape in Syria. The findings are available in the Syria Media Map and also in a Media Wiki, to which others can contribute dynamically.
We also provide a round-up of developments on the ground (in English as well as Arabic) from new media sources. Called Social Media Monitor, the updates are published on the Damascus Bureau site.