Around the world, independent media generate reliable, accurate, balanced reporting. They support social cohesion, the representation of minority views, and individual self-expression, and promote the debate of ideas. In few places is support and space for these capacities more lacking today than in Syria. Ordinary Syrians face agonizing political and personal choices without discursive or analytical resources to fall back on. Radicalization continues to spread as young people come of age in war and extremist groups are often the only ones reaching out to them. A patchwork of openings for self-expression and debate has appeared and disappeared across the country as territory changes hands.
Against this backdrop, RNW Media and the PeaceTech Lab, in collaboration with IREX, will host a deep dive on May 31 to explore the evolving role of independent media in the ongoing Syrian crisis.
How are Syrians using media? Where do they turn for news and information? What is the scope and influence of foreign media, Syrian state-run media, and independent media? Who controls the narrative? Who drives the news agenda? Which, if any, are the trusted outlets? How to combat extremism – can anything work in the current complex context? How to support independent media? What is the relationship between the independents and the communities they serve? What are the capacity and training needs? How to produce not only quality journalism but also support Syrian journalists’ safety and well-being? Do Syrian citizens feel empowered by media? Do they feel media tell their stories? What is the role of social media to give voice to local citizens? How to nurture agency for Syrians to tell their own stories?
With these questions on the table, the deep dive morning session will review a battery of research data and insights from media practitioners on current media use and the overall media landscape. This will provide a foundation for the afternoon session to explore and brainstorm creative responses in key areas such as empowering citizen storytelling, expanding journalistic capacity, and countering violent extremist rhetoric.
Undergirding the discussion will be the premise that Syrian youth in particular are interested in looking beyond the conflict to future possibilities. They want to see their aspirations and potential reflected in the media they consume, not only the depredations of war—which they know too well.