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

Mexico: The last moments of Bradley Roland Will [via GV/WITNESS]

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

Journalism seems like a precarious profession to practise in Mexico. It’s ranked by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist.

The latest tragic example of this came on Friday 27th October, in the southern state of Oaxaca, with the shooting of Brad Will. Brad was in Oaxaca as a journalist for New York City Indymedia, trying to get stories out about the protests in Oaxaca (for up-to-date accounts and context of the crisis in Oaxaca, read my GV colleague David Sasaki’s latest post). While filming skirmishes between paramilitaries and protestors in Santa Lucia on Friday afternoon, Brad was shot in the abdomen and neck, and died from his injuries, prompting the CPJ to call on the government to investigate Will’s death. Now Indymedia has released the tape that was in Brad’s video camera when he was shot.

It’s a sixteen-minute video with English subtitles, and beware, the last minute (from 15’30) is very difficult to watch. Click here to launch the Quicktime video (there’s a YouTube version without subtitles here).

Brad Will’s Indymedia press pass

There’s more footage at Mexican opposition blog Hoy PG, which points to a piece of unidentified news footage of Brad Will shortly after he was shot – not for the faint-hearted.

It’s a moot point whether these are human rights videos per se, but Brad’s tape in particular ends so shockingly, and depicts with such brutal suddenness the risks run by those determined to bring human rights stories to light, that it demands to be seen. But as one of the blogs David Sasaki quotes had it, there’s a balance to be struck between outrage at the killing of Brad Will, and at the mounting number of local deaths and injuries.

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Filed under: Cyber-Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Journalism, Law, Military, Online Video, Police, Politics, Protest, Technology, WITNESS

Video exposes child-soldier’s identity [via GV/WITNESS]

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

If you’ve seen the guidelines for this site, you’ll know that there are types of footage that we wouldn’t post, and circumstances surrounding the shooting of particular videos that mean we wouldn’t even link to them. Today’s post is about one of those videos.

I was researching a possible post about child-soldiers, when I found a video on a video-sharing site, said to be an interview with a teenage former child-soldier. In the video, the youth makes a number of allegations against the rebel organisation that he claims abducted him, sexually abused him, and sent him out on military operations – allegations broadly consistent with research conducted in his country by respected international human rights organisations.

But unusually for a video carrying this kind of allegation, the youth involved is identified by name, and in the accompanying text, by location. Human rights organisations (and media) would almost always advise protecting the identity of a minor in such a situation (see pages 16 and 17 in this document, for example) – whether by pixellating or obscuring his/her face, by shooting the video so that their face cannot be seen, e.g from behind or in silhouette, or possibly disguising their voice or re-voicing the audio. The photograph below shows how easy it is to pixellate an image to conceal someone’s identity.

Example of how to pixellate an image to protect someone’s identity

In the case of the video I had found, none of these protocols was followed. I wondered for quite a few days whether to post this video, which I felt brought out many important issues within a conflict where the recruitment of child-soldiers is common. It’s horrifying testimony (and by no means rare), and the youth’s story deserves to be heard – but the video raises a huge number of questions. Therefore I’ve decided against showing you the video itself.

The video is quite short, and in it the youth seems to be giving a prepared statement – there’s no one asking questions for clarification, as there was by contrast in the Alive In Baghdad video a couple of weeks ago. The text accompanying the video states that the army found the boy after he escaped from his abductors, so I have assumed that the army shot the video.

Did the army explain to him clearly and adequately what the video was for, and how it would be used? At no point in the video or in the accompanying text is it made clear whether the boy in question has given his consent to the use of this video online. Was he given a choice of whether to take part, or of when, where and how it would be filmed? He mentions his parents in the video – were they asked for their consent? If we assume that his alleged abduction and subsequent sexual abuse caused him trauma, what support and follow-up was offered to him? How informed can his consent be considered?

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Filed under: Africa, Children, Cyber-Activism, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Humanitarian, Internet, Law, Military, Online Video, Politics, REGION, Technology, War & Conflict, WITNESS

Zimbabwe: Smuggled DVD brings union protest beatings to light [via GV/WITNESS]

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

This video reached me late last night via Ethan Zuckerman. At nearly ten minutes, it’s longer than the other videos we’ve put up, but I strongly recommend you watch this.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aI1l7jmabBA]

It includes footage of the Zimbabwean police and security intelligence services breaking up a peaceful demonstration by members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions (ZCTU) on September 13th. The police repeatedly beat the demonstrators, who are calling for the provision of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs for the treatment of HIV, a minimum wage, and stabilisation in the prices of certain basic commodities. The bulk of the video involves interviews with the ZCTU members describing the events of the day, and the actions of the police. Ethan and Rachel Rawlins have kindly provided a transcript.

When news of the beatings originally leaked out, trades unions in other countries strongly condemned Robert Mugabe’s hardline approach with legitimate and peaceful demonstrations. Last week a court dismissed the police report on the incident, and postponed the trial of the ZCTU protestors until October 17th, to give the Criminal Investigation Department time to conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations of police torture. When footage of the protests was smuggled out of Zimbabwe on DVD to South Africa this week, it prompted the head of one of South Africa’s labour unions to say that she would give President Thabo Mbeki a copy of the DVD of the beatings in a meeting with him on Friday.

More as and when it emerges…

Filed under: Africa, Cyber-Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Law, Online Video, Police, Politics, Protest, Technology, Unions, WITNESS

Iraq: Rare testimony of abuse by the Iraqi Security Forces [via GV/WITNESS]

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

Torture in Iraq, says the UN, is “out of control”, and “worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein”. So it was especially timely for Brian Conley at Alive In Baghdad to e-mail us to say that he had an interview with a man who claims to have been beaten and abused by Iraqi security forces in Ramadi:

Click on the image to play video


The man in the video, referred to as “Majed”, talks of being arrested without charge by members of the Iraqi National Guard – now known as the New Iraqi Army – on 13 July 2006. The abuses he alleges include arbitrary detention, persistent beating and kicking, and whipping with an electric cable. He shows the camera the physical scars of his ordeal.

There are some questions about this case that the video interview doesn’t answer: did Majed make a complaint to any official authorities? If he did complain, did the Iraqi Security Forces deny the allegations or agree to investigate them? If the allegations are true, and the perpetrators are identified, is there any prospect that they will be punished? What about the US officer whom Majed refers to?

Nonetheless the alleged maltreatment described in the interview should be enough to make us all sit up and take notice.

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Filed under: Citizen Journalism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Law, Middle East & North Africa, Military, Militia, North America, Police, Violence, War & Conflict, WITNESS