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The Third Wave, The Fourth Screen, The Fifth Power, And Beyond

Tunisia: Opening prisons to the world [via GV/WITNESS]

[Originally published here as part of WITNESS‘s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CqgY0yWTqw]

At this site, I’m trying to show videos that show or speak about human rights abuses, and – as in the Tunisian video above – the impact of human rights abuses on ordinary people. I don’t speak Arabic, so how do I know what this video’s about?

It’s thanks to Tunisian activist Sami Ben Gharbia, who this Monday launched Tunisian Prisoners Map, which shows the prisons where a number of political and other prisoners are being held in Tunisia. The site, which — like sites such as ChicagoCrime.org – uses a Google Maps mashup, gives a brief case history for each prisoner, relevant external links, and, where Sami can find it, online video of their families – in the case of the video above it’s Mohamed Abbou. The videos are in Arabic, so I can’t give you more detail (any helpers?), but there’s some background in English in the case histories Sami provides.

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Filed under: Cyber-Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Online Video, Prisons, Software & Tools, Technology, WITNESS

Eastern Europe: Video documents homophobia on the rise [via GV/WITNESS]

[Originally published here as part of WITNESS‘s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

The latest twist in the long-running saga of anti-gay violence and state oppression took place yesterday in Moscow, as an appeals court upheld the earlier lower court ruling to ban Moscow’s Gay Pride March in May 2006. The gay rights activists who brought the case will now attempt to challenge the rulling in the European Court of Human Rights, and they say they expect to win.

As GVO’s Eastern and Central Europe Editor Veronica Khokhlova reported in May 2006, Moscow’s Mayor, Yuri Luzhov, banned the Moscow Gay Pride march from taking place. The religious leaders of Moscow met – on the one issue they could agree – to back his decision and called for violence against anyone who tried to marcha call that was unfortunately heeded. The video below – apparently uploaded to YouTube from a Russian anarchist site – doesn’t directly show the violence that took place, but does give a very immediate sense of the atmosphere in Moscow that day, and of who was involved:

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXHzoONni-k]

Just as sites like YouTube can be used as a dissemination tool for less savoury content, they can also be used as a tool for solidarity and support, and potentially as evidence. In the case of anti-gay violence, users have tried to upload their own footage (as with the videos in this post), and, where first-hand footage is not available, they have uploaded clips from their local TV news (here’s a clip from Serbian TV’s coverage of the 2001 Gay Pride in Belgrade).

And that solidarity and support may well be needed. Human Rights First, a US-based organisation, released a report earlier this year citing an increase both in rhetoric and in hate-crimes of a homophobic or racist nature in Russia (PDF) over the past year. But it’s not just Russia where this is a trend. Since the accession of 8 Eastern European countries to the EU in May 2004, the spotlight has come to rest increasingly on the rise in official, or state, homophobia across Eastern Europe.

The most high-profile manifestation of this is how governments handle Gay Pride marches – which are now held all over the world – in which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT organisations march to commemorate LGBT rights, and to celebrate LGBT pride.

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Filed under: Cellphone, Citizen Journalism, Cyber-Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Law, LGBT, Mobile, Online Video, Police, Protest, Sexuality, Technology, Violence, WITNESS

China: Government’s video-censorship foiled [via GV/WITNESS]

[Originally published here as part of WITNESS‘s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

When a young teacher is found dead outside her apartment building in Ruian, the police report concludes suicide, but her family and students suspect a cover-up. Over a thousand people take to the streets in protest, and are met with police violence. Protestors film the clashes on their cellphones, and upload the clips to Chinese video-sharing sites, but the clips are rapidly taken offline – only to re-appear on other sites, as respected English-language Chinese blog Danwei reported on Tuesday. The Dai Haijing story – pieced together online by Roland Soong of another blog EastSouthWestNorth, or ESWN – is, despite the best efforts of the Chinese authorities, gathering pace online.

Since GVO’s own John Kennedy blogged about the disappearing protest videos, also on Tuesday, at least three have emerged on YouTube and on Photobucket, including the video below:

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0kbTf1DIHk]

It’s clear why the authorities don’t want this footage to be seen. Despite the low definition of the cameraphone, the video clearly shows police officers beating protestors. ESWN quotes one commenter on bingfang.com as saying “Post those video clips and photographs onto international websites and let the world see the so-called democracy in China.” The consequences of doing so are unclear – whoever uploaded the videos to YouTube has a blog, http://dhj2006.blogspot.com/, which now returns the message “Sorry! Blog temporarily closed!” One US-based law professor’s blog suggested that the authorities are sensitive because it reveals the lack of trust in public institutions.

It’s more likely to be a question of timing. Wen Jiabao was in the UK on Tuesday to talk climate change with Tony Blair, and this is a bad time for a story like this to be leaking. The authorities have been concerned by the increase across the country in organised protests – against farmland seizures, corruption, pollution – of which the government said there were 87,000 in 2005, or around 240 per day. The latest release from the Public Security Ministry a month ago showed a slight decrease in protests for the first half of 2006, to 39,000, still well over 200 a day – and well before the Dai Haijing case.

The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders issued a statement Monday claiming an intensified crackdown by the Chinese authorities ahead of two Chinese Communist Party events and the 2008 Olympics. The statement calls for the release of a number of journalists, writers, lawyers and activists arrested and imprisoned in the last month, and robustly states that:

“The ruling authorities appear not to appreciate that their conventional tactics of using harsh crackdown to tighten control in advance of major political or social events has become obsolete. Rights consciousness is on the rise in China and grassroots activities to defend rights have been spreading rapidly. Repression has contributed to a growing and more active community of human rights defenders.”

This series of posts at ESWN illustrates the challenges faced by bloggers trying to get stories like this out to a wider audience, but this doesn’t just affect China’s bloggers – we’d like to hear your stories, wherever you are, about how you make sure videos like these remain online when the authorities seem extremely keen to ensure they get deleted.

This section of GVO is a collaboration between WITNESS and Global Voices Online, and in the coming weeks we’re going to be highlighting a wide range of footage filmed by citizens, as with these videos, or by perpetrators of human rights abuses themselves, as I wrote about last week. We’ll be seeking out videos from cellphones and camcorders, depicting – as in today’s post – protests and reactions to human rights violations, but also many other rights issues including gay rights, refugee rights, prisons, police brutality, and violations by the military as well as the economic, social and cultural rights like those to water, housing, and health and a host of other human rights-related footage. We’ll also be looking for footage of survivors of violations speaking out about abuses.

If you come across videos of this kind, whether on video-sharing sites like Google Video, Photobucket, BlipTV or YouTube, via email, or via MMS, please do let us know, either through the comments facility below, or by email.

In the guidelines, you’ll find an outline of the kinds of footage we’re looking for, and here are instructions on how to upload the footage to websites securely, and so we can find it easily.

Filed under: Cellphone, Cyber-Activism, East Asia, Freedom of Speech, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Law, Mobile, Online Video, Police, Protest, Technology, WITNESS

Malaysia: Cellphone video captures police excess [via GV/WITNESS]

[Originally published here as part of WITNESS‘s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

When the Malaysian police started accepting crime reports sent in by members of the public from their cellphones, little did they expect that their own misdemeanours would one day be caught in the frame.

Malaysians have had to put up with police corruption and misconduct as a part of everyday life. But now blogs and video cellphones have given Malaysians who are exasperated by the lack of action against the police a new and very public outlet. A new Malaysian blog – Polis Raja Di Malaysia (or “Royal Malaysian Police”) – aims to pull together footage documenting police misconduct from video-sharing sites like YouTube and GoogleVideo. The blog promotes itself with the strapline “Police should fight crime, not fight the people”. Cellphone videos on YouTube range, for example, from footage and photomontages of the police breaking up protests to a police officer firing into the air unprovoked while breaking up a fight – as shown below.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t6uZ348P-o]

One recent video that hasn’t made it onto Polis Raja Di Malaysia yet, but has been on other blogs, appears to show police officers beating and humiliating two youths in a police cell. It has caused controversy in Malaysia and human rights organisation Suaram calls it “the tip of the iceberg”. The video, which shows a youth being forced to lick his saliva off the floor, was apparently filmed by one of the police officers on his cellphone, and only came to light when he sent the phone in for repairs. A technician uploaded the clip onto the internet, and one viewer sent it in to Malaysia TV3’s Utama Bulletin news programme, which aired it last week.

It’s just one of many alleged cases of police brutality that remain either uninvestigated or unpunished, and this one has only stoked up a controversy because video evidence surfaced – in this case, unwittingly released by the police officer himself. As a result, it seems that Malaysian police officers are now banned from carrying cameraphones.

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Filed under: Cellphone, Cyber-Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Law, Mobile, Online Video, Police, Politics, South-East Asia, Technology, WITNESS