3 Rules to Establishing Truth through a Video

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 7:53 | James Miller

The first casualty in war is truth, but the first casualty in the Arab Spring is a reliable video feed. In places like Syria, as in Iran, independent media has been kicked out, shut down, or censored to the point that the only people who can document the protests and the violent crackdown against them are the demonstrators themselves.

For the last two years, those of us who follow the opposition in Iran have picked through streams of YouTube videos to separate the real from the faked. Now an exiled Syrian activist, writing under the screen name “Revolt for Your Life”, has posted three guidelines for protesters to assist journalists trying to cover their stories.

1. “The person filming the demonstration gives the time, place and location of the protest.” We know it’s a tough job, trying to video a protest without getting caught, but some sort of marker, especially of the time/date, is crucial. There are a lot people out there, cheerleaders, manipulators, and regime agents who want to discredit the protesters and the media by faking videos. The easiest way to do this is to show an old video, claim it to be taken that day, and get some usually-reliable journalists or Twitter accounts to run with it.

“Revolt for Your Life” gives two examples, videos where the videographer narrates the time, date, location, and other relevant information. There are other ways of doing this. Holding a newspaper, or perhaps changing the name of the event (every Friday’s protest has a different name, so mentioning that name can pinpoint time and date). If the video is a series, even adding information to the first video would help corroborate the rest. The more information, the better.  This is your revolution, and it is your neck on the line, so it would be a shame to take a risk, video a protest, and have the footage get ignored by the journalists because they can’t trust it.

“2. The video shows signs or highly-recognisable landmarks to confirm the location of the demonstration.” As an EA correspondent remarked one day, he couldn’t tell if some of these protest videos were taken in Khamenei’s palace or in Los Angeles.

3. The demonstrator films the identity cards of the people whom he interviews as a way to identify witnesses’ accounts.” I’m weary of recommending this one. Protesters are taking their lives in their hands by letting their identity be known. On the other hand, nothing adds more credibility to an eyewitness account than a video, taken in country, and on the record.

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