When journalists join forces with activists

Back in the day of traditional media, people had to wait patiently to receive information from a media outlet. This was when news circulated, and there was mutual trust between citizens and their channel choice.

Nowadays, each citizen can act as a journalist with social media and high-tech tools. Any one of us can report an incident much faster than a news outlet that would have to navigate a bureaucracy to uncover what has happened.

Journalism’s paramour is speed, as Cantlin writes. The indicator of quality is who gives you the news the fastest while you are quickly and reliably informed.

The beauty of investigative journalism is embedded in the notion that a journalist must dig deep into a variety of sources to accurately report on an event. From unpublished material to interviews and past relevant events, sometimes it can take more than just a few days to create a well-drafted and truthful piece.

Since the beginning of protests in Iran and after the death of Mahsa Amini, there have been countless reports of citizens being arrested and, in most cases, abducted by the Islamic Republic forces and taken to unknown locations – some of them never returned home.

The case of Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old girl from Tehran, whose name quickly became a hashtag on Twitter, much like Mahsa Amini’s, has been the most heartbreaking. The news of her disappearance never became public, but being missed for ten days, her family learned of her death, which was the beginning of her unfinished story.

Nika and Mahsa

Videos obtained by 1500Tasvir, an activist group, and according to many Iranians’, one of the few reliable sources during these dire times, revealed the final hours of Nika Shakarami’s; from when she was standing on top of an overturned garbage bin waving her flaming headscarf and chanting “death to the dictator” to when the scared teenager in hiding is exposed and arrested.

The number of videos and images captured in Iran and made public is overwhelming. Social media is bombarded with new footage of different cities daily and the people braving grave danger on the streets. For the most part, citizens have taken it upon themselves to report the date, the name of the city, and the street where they are located while capturing these videos; clarifying who’s on the video proves to be the harder task, in part due to security implications and the faces of protestors concealed with masks.

In their recent investigative report, the CNN crew joined forces with 1500Tasvir to reveal what happened to Nika Shakarami. You can read the full piece here.

Their report is as coherent as it is emotionally disturbing. The death of Nika Shakarami in the late hours of September 20th, 2022, is what one can expect to see in a horror movie. Even today, officials of the Islamic Republic are not coming forward with the truth, leaving CNN’s repeated requests for a comment unanswered. Instead, they spread misinformation by using fabricated documents. Since Nika Shakarami’s death, there have been many reports of protestors being abducted in the same fashion. In rare instances, witnesses have been able to capture the abduction on video.

This investigative work by CNN is important in so many ways. First, CNN provided evidentiary support that the Islamic Republic is lying and the information they have tried to feed the public about Nika Shakarami’s death and others has been forged. Second, it sheds light on what is happening on the streets of Iran for citizens, intending to spread awareness to the Western audience. And lastly, it highlights how important it is for journalists to collaborate with activists.