Over the past few days I have been observing a webcam channel sponsored by the Libya17Feb folks and in particular the citizen journalism of a young married Libyan man named Muhammad Nabbous. “Mo” as he is nicknamed, has been an inspiration to many Libyans across North America, Europe, and the Middle East.
I do not know much about Muhammad Nabbous, or rather I only know him by watching his webcam broadcast over the last few days. He was an intelligent, very tech savvy young man who spoke English very well which made him very popular as he attempted to raise awareness in North America regarding the violence taking place in Libya, and specifically from Benghazi.
Muhammad’s activities were particularly interesting to me. While at home in front of his webcam, we would take phone number requests from the thousands of people monitoring his web channel and reach out to loved ones on behalf of those overseas. All phone calls to Libya continue to be blocked by the government, but telecommunications works inside Libya, so to many hundreds Muhammad would function as a lifeline to connect families and provide status updates to those concerned outside Libya.
Muhammad would also conduct other activities as a citizen journalist, for example, last night while I was monitoring his channel there were around 20-30 explosions inside Benghazi. The young man connected one cell phone to his webcam, grabbed another cell phone and his camera, and drove around to various checkpoints to investigate the explosions while live streaming audio descriptions to those watching. He would hold the camera with one hand, drive with the other, hold the cell phone in his lap and describe all activities.
During these times media would often tune in and report through Twitter what was being said and done during this young mans live investigations. Once he would return home after his investigations, he would upload the video to the same channel and people could watch these investigations that would add video to the audio for more context to explain events unfolding in Benghazi. It really has been incredible to observe this citizen journalist in action inside a war zone, in particular a city under siege like Benghazi.
This morning Muhammad Nabbous was shot and killed during one of these investigations. The channel is always being viewed by thousands of people, and it is remarkable the outcry of inspiration and mourning taking place in chat this morning after his wife confirmed the young mans death.
I can’t help but observe how important Muhammad Nabbous is as an example of the intersection between technology and war. As people become more aware and more capable utilizing these technologies, the ability of people to connect out of war zones on a personal level to a large audience poses challenges to decision makers as sympathetic movements can force the hands of political leaders and influence decision making. There were many news organizations that reported the activities of Muhammad Nabbous with as much if not more credibility as Libyan State TV (for good reason).
As I watched Muhammad Nabbous and began to observe major news organizations linking to his webcam feed, my impression was he on the verge of becoming an enormously popular individual world wide for his efforts in Libya, indeed last night he conducted several phone interviews with the western media and I suspected we would see these stories about this young man on cable news networks over the coming days.
It was not to be. God bless Muhammad Nabbous and comfort his wife. I never met the young man, but I found him both inspiring and admirable for the courage he repeatedly demonstrated to do all he could for his country and his people as they struggle to break from the grips of dictatorship.
Posted by Galrahn