Hong Kong’s Citizen Journalists

by William Fisher

For those of us who have lived in Hong Kong, the Occupy Central movement is a very personal matter. Even more so if you lived through the Tiananmen Square protests. I remember my wife – then an editor at Magnum Photos – going back and forth to the airport at dawn, with the very important job of shepherding photographers and their film in and out of the country.

Then as now, the world is watching. But what we’re watching today isn’t necessarily coverage by Stuart Franklin or CNN. Mainly we’re looking at photos and videos taken on smartphones by the very student protesters who have brought the city to a standstill.

And the images are all the more powerful precisely because they’re the work of ordinary Hong Kong citizens.

Hong Kong protest near Wan Chai" by Citobun - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Hong Kong protest near Wan Chai” by Citobun – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Times have changed, and so have the obstacles that photographers and videographers face. Technology in general and smartphones in particular have empowered a new generation. But recent revelations about malicious apps intended to monitor Hong Kong’s smartphone-wielding protesters show that today’s citizen journalists face new obstacles of increased sophistication.

Who is responsible for the malicious apps? We may not know for sure, but of course we have a good idea.

For every such dirty tech trick, there are tech counter-measures. Mobile messaging services and apps like Firechat (which uses a phone’s radio and Bluetooth communication capabilities to create a network) have allowed protesters and civilian witnesses to skirt Internet disruptions and saturated cells.

YuVue aims to be part of the solution. Our app and Web platform connect professionals and citizen journalists directly with the media outlets and Web publishers who value their work.

It’s the present-day version of a pre-dawn ride to the airport.


Photography as Agency

Thousands of photographs continue to flood out of Ferguson, Mo., some by photojournalists, but many more by local residents on social media. While these images document quickly unfolding events, they serve another purpose: providing the African-American community with an important outlet for reporting on — and taking control of — the chaos around it.

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