There seems to be a general agreement that reporting from war is of utmost importance and a necessary precondition to addressing a conflict. Reading and viewing the news in this context is often referred to as witnessing the unfolding crisis, even though the newsreaders/viewers are not present in time and space. Taking my art activist project “Gazes From Syria: Ten Years of Uprising / Multi-Sided Civil, Sectarian, and Proxy War,” which draws on ten years of reporting in the International New York Times about the war in Syria, as an example, this paper examines if and how following the news can be seen as media witnessing. Analysing the news reporting and photography as witnessing texts, I show how the specific conditions of news reporting and photography contribute to a sense of immediacy and actuality and can thoroughly affect media audiences. Inherent in news reporting from war is the demand to take notice and intervene, which implicates the newsreaders/viewers in the witnessing process of addressing and responding. Far from passive spectators, many newsreaders/viewers accept the responsibility of the witness to testify in a variety of ways, co-constructing the truth of the witnessed event, and shaping public opinion and collective memory. Finally, the paper points to the temporal horizons of witnessing texts, which change over time from immediate testimony to later potentially being evidence in a court of law, and finally how they become historical documents in the archive, without losing their witnessing potential.


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