Syria is quickly becoming one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time, yet it seems our infatuation with war and conflict is one that comes and goes in waves.
On Wednesday top UN envoy Stephen O’Brien warned that Aleppo risks becoming ‘one giant graveyard’, and Cornish charity Shelterbox’s partner organization ReliefAid revealed in a press release earlier today that ‘East Aleppo has as estimated 275,000 people living in it. Needs are immense for families in cold winter conditions. Medical services are all but defunct following sustained attacks against hospitals and healthcare workers, and families have been forced onto the streets by the fighting.’
Having journalists in such dangerous conflict zone is a challenge and most of our footage and news from Syria is from trusted sources from the ground.
Mark Nicholson, Shelterbox’s media relation’s officer, said: “This is territory that is as difficult for journalists as it is for aid workers – huge security problems, risk of kidnap or injury. So getting images and voices from within the city is very challenging. Much of what you have seen so far are reports from surrounding towns and villages, or pieces set up with military help.
“These days social media is a medium that allows people in conflict zones to post words and images from the heart of a war zone, which is a relatively new dynamic.
“You will have also seen increased use of drone video and photography, which allows news organisations to get dramatic footage from a safer distance.”
Waad Al-Kateab is a 25 year old filmmaker from Aleppo and it is due to people like him that we in the western world are able to gain an insight into exactly what it is like in the conflict zones of Syria. He has already been given two amnesty awards for his work.
It is due to the danger in places like Aleppo that makes embedding journalist so difficult, with us relying on trusted sources such as Al-Kateab to build up a picture for us as media consumers of what the Syrian conflict is like from the ground.
Yet what we seem quick to forget is that Al-Kateab reports from a country that is being torn apart by not only a civil conflict, but also a proxy war that involves the UK, Russia and the U.S.
While it seems that we are happy to consume the footage we receive from such filmmakers as Al-Kateab and use it in the mainstream media, any attention to the conflict is relatively short lived, with domestic and American politics dominating our headlines as quickly as the Syrian conflict is forgotten.
Admittedly, the media cannot report first hand on stories for which they have no reporters in the field. This is one drawback there is to “social media journalism”, with many believing that you need to be in the conflict zone first hand for “real war correspondence”.
Martin Bell, the famed war correspondent says: “Young people today have spent all their lives looking at screens, and this applies especially to young journalists. You get your information from screens; you get your entertainment from screens.
“The old-fashioned sort of reporting, getting out on the ground, finding things out. There is less and less of that.”
Although we are finding out about the Syria conflict, it is heavily reliant on sources such as Al-Kateab, and as the situation in Syria worsens, the question of how much longer these reports will be available arises.
Al-Kateab signed of his latest letter with: “I would have liked for my lens and my colleagues lenses to give you the complete picture of Aleppo but we are helpless in front of the horrors of this annihilation which the Russians and the regime are enjoying in this ancient city. There is a perished city and all its people are asking you to remember your humanity.”
Journalism has come in for a lot of criticism in recent times, with its handling of Brexit and the American election, isn’t it time the standards were raised and the duties of the journalist were fulfilled?
With the technology available, and the ability to report on worldwide issues being more achievable now than ever before, media outlets should remain consistent with their coverage of the conflict, and not let it die out into the background of the cultural narrative like so many before.