The scrappy Syrian TV station where reporters file via Facebook and Gchat

December 13, 2012

Syria's media is almost entirely state-controlled, but through the chaos of the civil war, one scrappy, independent television station has been committed to providing citizens of Aleppo, the country's largest city, with news about every bomb blast and street battle.

A Free Syrian Army fighter poses as he carries his weapon in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo) Click here to see more photos of fighting in Syria.
A Free Syrian Army fighter poses as he carries his weapon in the northern province of Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo) Click here to see more photos of fighting in Syria.

The editors of Aleppo Today, who are based outside of Syria, are mainly refugees who held other professions before the war, CNN reports. About 70 reporters and volunteers inside Aleppo feed information to the newsroom. As one might expect, there are myriad obstacles to getting information out of Aleppo and onto viewers' screens:

It can be hard to keep lines of communication open to the reporters. Electricity in Aleppo is intermittent and the Internet goes down frequently. Most of the reporters file over Skype, gChat and Facebook. There are satellite Internet and phone setups, but not everyone on staff in Syria has access to secure communications.

They can't afford much bandwidth, so the station broadcasts mostly still images -- a 24-hour slideshow of the city before the war -- but a news ticker at the bottom provides information on bombings, shellings, the locations of snipers and demonstrations.

To avoid being blocked by the Syrian government, the station beams its signal through at least two other countries before sending it to Syria.

It doesn't always work. According to an earlier NPR report, the channel is often blocked by the regime, and the staff has been targeted.

But every time the broadcasts are jammed, Aleppo Today moves to another satellite channel, and a loyal audience travels with it, in search of news that it truly can use.

The Syrian businessmen backers of the channel say they also plan to launch an FM radio station, which would provide yet another valuable lifeline to Aleppo residents who haven't yet fled the violence.

"If you are giving the right information, people can protect themselves, telling which areas are safe and which are not," the news editor told NPR.

Watch CNN's video on Aleppo Today.

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Max Fisher | December 13, 2012