Mideast:'citizen journalists' behind success of Al-Quds News

Most followed network in West Bank

02 November, 17:42

    Al Quds news Al Quds news

    (by Michele Monni) - RAMALLAH - Creating ''citizen journalists'' who report on the news appears to be the secret behind the Al-Quds News Network which has become in less than two years - especially among the young - one of the most popular media outlets in the Territories reporting on the wave of violence and attacks in Israel and the West Bank.

    The editor-in-chief who directs the network from a coffee shop in Ramallah where he spends most of the day is Ahmad Yousef, 25.Its Arabic-language Facebook page has reached almost four million 'likes', over 1.5 million over the past month alone. Its strength is reportedly that it is able to provide real time updates through photos and videos on events before they are reported by official media. ''Our structure is very slim'', said Yousef, one of the founders, who lives in Ramallah.

    ''We are six managing editors - he added - who take shifts but we have hundreds of 'citizen journalists' across the area: from Gaza to the '48 (as Israel is defined) over all occupied Territories and in several Palestinian refugee camps in the Middle East. ''However - he added - we have several professional journalists who help out as volunteers''. Thanks to agreements with the main Palestinian phone operators (Jawwal and Watanya) and from Jordan (Zein), Quds News sends at a moderate cost text messages on the news to hundreds of thousands of people.

    Revenues, together with commercials, pay the salaries of employees and ensure the organization's survival.

    The outlet's website and Facebook page are at the moment being criticized by Israelis and some Palestinians, over the strong nature of images that are being posted without censoring the strongest details. The first accuse Al-Quds News of ''instigation'' against the Israeli population while the second of failing to respect the families of the subjects involved, showing bloody scenes. ''We are just registering what happens'', defended himself Youssef. ''If settlers attack Palestinian villages, if the army kills innocent people or if a Palestinian attacks an Israeli and we have video footage or photos, we report on it. It is our task: it is up to the public to evaluate events''. The young reporter claims that the accusation of instigation can also be aimed at some Israeli websites and Facebook pages, especially those of settlers, where ''photos of innocent Palestinians were posted, and defined as about to commit attacks against Israelis, thus causing their arrest by the army''. The problems for Al-Quds News - observed Yousef - are not only coming from Israel, but also from the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). ''There are problems but at this time we cannot fight on two fronts''. The network isn't only successful thanks to the speed and entity of reports but also due to the decline of traditional media, said Yousef. ''The main Palestinian outlets are still transitioning from analogical to digital. We were born digital, those using our services get access to the news on their phones or ipads, this is why we are successful''.

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