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Under Siege: A Syrian Diary

The camera in Homs: a double-edged sword

I am a video journalist by default.

Last modified: 28 Jun 2012 16:31

I am a video journalist by default.

I had never carried a camera before. I had used my mobile camera earlier only to take photos of my friends and family during special occasions.

But now, during the revolution, we carry cameras to film for the world what is happening in our country and to show them how the innocent are punished and the criminals get away with impunity.

But for activists, the camera is a double-edged sword.

And here is how.

Many of my friends were arrested for protesting. However they weren’t arrested from the protest sites, but rather from the checkpoints spread across the city. (Read More...)

But how did Assad forces know they protested? 

Government forces have special teams dedicated to monitoring protests that we film and upload to the internet.

One of my friends who was detained for a short period told me that, as he was undergoing torture in detention, he was asked by the investigator if he ever participated in rallies against the regime. When my friend denied protesting, the investigator showed him footage where his face clearly appeared in a protest.

This is when we started learning how to film rallies from angles that would clearly show the crackdown by Assad forces on protests but not the faces of those protesting.

A lot of Homs residents have become scared of the camera. This is not because there is any kind of animosity between the activists and the residents. But because of the fear the regime planted in their heart.

They know that a photo of them on the internet could result in several months of imprisonment and torture. This fear has grown as the number of arrests rose.

Residents living in opposition-controlled neighbourhoods are especially under threat of being arrested for appearing on “inciting TV networks”.

One resident who crossed to a government controlled neighbourhood was arrested at checkpoints for appearing in a footage filmed by an activist. In the footage, the man was simply removing the rubble from the street.

As a novice journalist, I have started to become very cautious about having the faces of people appear in my footage. I do not want anyone to be hurt because of me.

A lot of people I talk to refuse to speak in front of the camera despite their strong urge to deliver their messages to the world.

Yesterday, I was filming a report on medical work and asked a doctor if I can interview him to speak about the medical situation in Homs. He requested that I give him some time to think about it.

When I went back to speak to him few hours later, he refused to allow me in. He said that even if I do not show his face, his voice is distinct. He said pro-Assad doctors could tell the authorities about him.

He said he was scared security forces may hurt his family who lives in a government-controlled neighbourhood if his identity was revealed.

Thus fear from the camera in Homs is justified.

We learned that if we do not know how to use the camera, this weapon will backfire and hurt us.