Examining Online Diaspora Journalist's Productions and Networks: A Case Study of Syrian Post-Conflict Activist Journalism in Exile


Understanding the media practices of diasporic communities have gained much attention by scholars over the past decades. Many studies focused on the media consumption of diasporic groups (e.g., Alencar, 2017; Bonfadelli et al, 2007; Caidi et al. 2012) while others investigated the various functions diasporic media serve (e.g., Al-Rawi & Fahmy, 2018; Bernal, 2006; Georgiou, 2003). However, investigating diaspora journalism as a concept and understanding the changing roles of journalists in transnational contexts has only received scant attention.

Aiming to bridge a knowledge gap, this study looks into activist diaspora journalism at the levels of content and practice. It first explores how Syrian diaspora journalists build online networks that blur boundaries between journalism, activism and civil society by collaborating with human rights associations and advocating for various causes including democratic political reformation, freedom of expression, revolution against Al Assad's regime and gender equality in Syria.

In addition to examining diaspora journalists' networks, the study takes a further step towards exploring the online textual and visual productions of two online Syrian diasporic websites that started as small amateur/citizen journalism projects since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, then moved outside the country to report independently on the local affairs. The paper further involves interviews with the founders of the online Syrian journalists' networks and editors of diasporic websites to investigate their media advocacy strategies and the main topics their activism agendas against Al-Assad's regime involve. The study aims to answer the following main questions:

RQ1: How did online Syrian journalism' networks, created by diaspora journalists, evolve over time? What roles do they play with regard to reporters and the social and political causes inside and outside the homeland?

RQ2: How do textual and visual productions of online Syrian media outlets portray the conflict and dominant actors of the homelands' politics? And how does the content imply stances towards activism?

RQ3: How do Syrian diaspora journalists perceive the changing nature of their
profession and journalism ideology in diaspora? And how do they maintain
relationships with journalists and audiences backhome?

In order to answer the above-mentioned questions, the proposed study adopts a three-step qualitative methodological approach:

a) First, it employs a digital ethnography method to analyze the dynamics of two online Syrian journalists' networks: the Syrian Journalism Association and the Syrian Female Journalists Network for four months from 1st of November 2019 to 29th of February 2020.

b) Second, drawing on the agenda setting theoretical concept, the study employs a qualitative content analysis to investigate the journalistic productions of two Syrian online diaspora outlets Enab Baladi and Rozana Radio to identify the recurrent themes, types of actors and their agenda for representing three ongoing conflicts:

  • Demonstrations against regime in Idlib and Daraa.
  • The Russian Turkey Military Solution to ceasefire in Idlib and its political consequences.
  • Claims on new chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta.

c) Third, in-depth interviews with the founders and editors of the four selected platforms are conducted to investigate the journalistic paradigm they follow and their perceptions about their changing roles.