Workshop on Citizen Journalism and Civil Resistance

For the last six days I was in Madrid, Spain to help facilitate a workshop that married the two fields of citizen journalism and civil resistance.  The goal of the workshop was to prepare journalists, bloggers, and communicators from around the world to better understand the strategic dynamics of nonviolent social movements so they can more effectively report on these struggles in ways that will help them to succeed.  26 citizen journalists participated in the workshop coming from the following countries: Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, UK, Phillipines, Mexico, Spain, Israel/Palestine, Brazil, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Macedonia, Ukraine, India, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Serbia, France, and Finland.

The objectives of the course were for the participants to be able to:

  • Develop a critical lens for analyzing nonviolent social movements.
  • Explore various tools and methods for capturing and reporting a movement’s narrative.
  • Gain a historical perspective on civil resistance and the use of media within it.
  • Practice video creation and editing skills.
  • Discuss the benefits and limitations of the internet and social media in civil resistance.

The workshop incorporated several different exercises and approaches to education in service of these objectives.


We used role-plays as a way for activists who have been directly involved in waging nonviolent struggle to share their experiences and insights, while at the same time having seasoned journalists model and practice different interviewing and questioning techniques that pull relevant information from a movement participant.   In the first role play we had a seasoned journalist interviewed Ivan Marovic, who was one of the founding members of Otpor, the nonviolent youth movement that played an integral role in removing Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic from power.  After the initial journalist asked a few questions, other participants were then allowed to tap in and become the interviewer.

During the second role play we set up a press conference scenario and had Ahmed Salah, a key organizer in the movement that ended in the ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.  Ahmed presented some of the key organizing strategies and tactics he used during the uprising and then took questions from the audience.  One of the other workshop participants took on the role of the press secretary and was responsible for calling on different reporters and keeping the conference moving.  Afterwords we discussed on best practices on asking clear, concise, questions in a press conference situation.

During both of the role plays, some of the participants were recording, both audio and video, of the presentations, questions and interviews.  We had a number of flip video cameras, along with some tripods and a digital audio recorder.  Different participants experimented with recording the interviews and presentations from different angles and capturing quality audio.


We used Twitter as a way to capture our notes and thoughts in a social way on the various presentations.  First, we set up a Twitter hashtag (#pressistance = press + resistance) and then a few of us started tweeting and contributing to the feed.  This also proved as an effective way to involve others who were not able to be there physically.  In the picture to the left, someone who was friends/colleagues with one of the workshop participants asked her to ask Ahmed Salah (Egyptian activist) a question about leadership during Egypt’s uprising.  It also proved as a useful way to instantly record and share linked resources (videos, website, etc.) with the rest of the group.


All of the participants got a crash course in video creation – how to frame your subject, hold the camera steady, capture quality audio, find a good background, etc. and then had the opportunity to film an interview with one of the other participants.  All of these interviews were then uploaded to a YouTube account that I had created specifically for this workshop.

I then used these videos in a later session, where I taught some of the participants how to use YouTube’s editing service, which is free to anyone with an internet access and allows users to add titles and subtitles, translations, links to other videos or other websites, trim clips, insert music, add effects and other basis editing functions.  I broke the group into 4 teams and each team took one of the video interviews to edit in a particular way.  One team translated part of a Spanish language interview and added English subtitles at the bottom.  Another team added an introductory title.  Another team placed notes on the videos that linked out to other websites or another video.  And the last team trimmed one of the videos to include only the part of the interview they wanted to use.


I decided to try out the audio platform, AudioBoo, for the first time during this workshop.  AudioBoo is a social media platform, similar to Twitter in some ways, but instead of sharing 140 character text based messages, AudioBoo shares audio based messages that are five minutes or less.  I first saw AudioBoo in use during the uprising in Egypt as I started seeing people tweet links to “AudioBoos” they had recorded in Tahrir Square.  I really liked how this service allowed people to take advantage of the audio recording capabilities of their cell phones and share those recording with others.

I was able to capture various segments of presentations, interviews, and group activities throughout the workshop and then immediately store and share those clips via our Twitter feed.  I personally like this last AudioBoo, that I captured during the final session.  Each person had to think of one word to describe the workshop, speak that word into my phone (which was recording) and then pass it along to the next person in the circle.  So the final audio clip is about 1 minute and 30 seconds of everyone’s voice from the workshop.  A great way to keep our memories alive about the people with whom we learned over the 3 1/2 days of the workshop.

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