Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

“City of Ghosts”: Citizen Journalism in Da’ish-Held Raqqa

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

“City of Ghosts”: Citizen Journalism in Da’ish-Held Raqqa

Article excerpt

“City of Ghosts”: Citizen Journalism in Da’ish-Held Raqqa Directed, produced and filmed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman, the documentary "City of Ghosts" takes viewers straight into the heart of Raqqa, briefly outlining events before Da'ish (ISIS) took over the Syrian city and made it the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate.

The film follows the rise of Da'ish as four brave journalists-Aziz, Hamoud, Hussam and Mohamad-escape Raqqa, leaving behind home and many loved ones who eventually fall victim to the atrocities of the city's new rulers. In exile, these men establish Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a citizen journalist platform publishing reports from inside the city. Using their connections inside Raqqa, they continue to transmit news about public executions, poverty, and other dire living conditions that would otherwise go unnoticed by the outside world.

With every new report, RBSS journalists inside and outside of Raqqa are at tremendous risk of being tracked down. When one RBSS member is assassinated in Turkey, where he had fled seeking safety, the men realize that they have no true refuge. They remain determined, however, to continue to bring Raqqa into the public eye, even if it leads to their own deaths.

Da'ish made many unsuccessful attempts to hack RBSS. Aside from the deaths of friends and family members, the biggest blow to RBSS was the destruction of all satellite dishes inside Raqqa in an effort by Da'ish to prevent inside sources from providing information to the outside world. Yet, working cautiously, meticulously and bravely, the citizen journalists continue to relay information, shooting videos and quickly erasing content from their devices, as any trace of RBSS on their electronics would mean certain torture and death.

Living in exile outside Syria, the four founders of RBSS face struggles of their own. …

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