Citizen journalism in the United States and citizen journalism around the world serve two completely different purposes and accomplish different goals. In the US, we’re lucky enough to have freedom of speech and the ability to publish news (or whatever people consider to be news), whenever we want. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in other countries across the world.
Consider places like North Korea, where television is state-run, and television and radio sets must be registered with the police, and are pre-tuned to government channels and stations. Although this is just one example, it makes it nearly impossible for news to funnel in and out of the country. Egypt has a limited number of television stations, and a few were ordered to cease service as repercussions for a military coup that happened in July 2013.
These may be just a few examples, but certainly opens up a wide opportunity for citizen journalism to step in and fill a big void in the media cycle. During the 2011 Arab Spring, camera phones were the easiest and fastest way to get news out of the Middle East. Started in Tunisia, anti-government protests quickly spread to other Middle Eastern countries. During this conflict, camera phones became the main thoroughfare for news. As noted by The Guardian, Al-Jazeera’s citizen media service had over 1,000 entries a day of happenings during Egyptian President Hosni Mubarack’s removal.
Numbers like that don’t lie. No matter where someone is in the world, they have the ability to tell a story. Especially in places where media is largely restricted, the news that does escape is largely citizen journalist based. “Regular” media is largely banned, especially during uprisings and military missions, to put even stricter control on the already frowned-upon media.
International relations are incredibly important to the United States and our democracy, so keeping tabs on other countries stability is something the government and country monitor closely. This is why, when things happen, like the capture of Saddam Hussein, Occupy Wallstreet, the Arab Spring, and most recently Typhoon Haiyan, dominate the news and social media. People across the world bring issues to light, whether they’re humanitarian, civil, governmental, or other, that we, in the US, would otherwise not know much about.
I believe that everyone has a story to tell. In places of a more oppressed nature, where media isn’t freely available and restrictions are placed on nearly all activities, there could be a desire to get the content out there. Smartphones, social media, and blogs are just a few ways in which citizen journalism has made an impact in overseas diplomacy. There may not be more emphasis on citizen journalism across the world, but it serves a completely different purpose in a lot of cases.