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

Saddam execution video re-ignites death penalty debates worldwide [via GV/WITNESS]

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

Over the past four months, we’ve tried to feature and contextualise videos we felt should be seen and debated by a wider audience. Today’s featured human rights video is something completely new.

You may be one of the millions who have sought it out online – or you may have decided to avoid it. Someone – a friend, a colleague, a relative – may have emailed it to you, or called you up to tell you about it. You may have seen a clip of it on the TV news. One way or the other, you’re likely to have an opinion on it, because it’s made for a memorable start to 2007, as political cartoonist blackandblack’s cartoon illustrates:

2007 - a cartoon by http://black-blackandblack.blogspot.com

Click here to launch blackandblack’s blog in a new window.

If anyone was still in any doubt that sousveillance was one of the ideas of the year, then the Saddam video should put that beyond doubt. What’s different about the cellphone footage of the execution of Saddam Hussein, former dictator of Iraq, is that, aside from being probably the most watched web video in history, it has re-ignited a global debate on a perennial human rights issue: capital punishment.

Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar links to both the official and unofficial videos here – on a personal note, I found it one of the most disturbing videos I have yet had to watch, so viewer beware…

Judging by the Iraqi government’s indignation at the unofficial footage, and the ambivalent reaction of many major media outlets (as detailed by Armenia-based Onnik Krikorian here), they were the only ones genuinely surprised that a cameraphone was smuggled past the security checks into the death chamber. If whoever filmed it had surrendered his cellphone before the hanging, the world may never have seen beyond the mute, carefully-edited, tastefully-faded-out official video of the proceedings.

The real story emerging from the Saddam video is that, in laying bare the huge gap between the managed official account of his execution and the far messier reality, it has provoked people – and many bloggers – to reflect less on whether Saddam merited his fate, and more on the nature and appropriateness of that fate for the age we live in.

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Filed under: Africa, Caribbean, Cellphone, Central Asia & Caucasus, Citizen Journalism, Death Penalty, East Asia, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Journalism, Latin America, Law, Mobile, Online Video, Politics, REGION, Religion, South Asia, Technology, War & Conflict, WITNESS

China: Videos emerge of clashes between police and students in Jiangxi [via GV/WITNESS]

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

Hot on the heels of the Chinese government’s claim of a 22.1% reduction in “mass incidents” (read “protests”), here’s some more video of “mass incidents” from China, in case you missed this portion of John Kennedy’s latest Beijing bulletin:

Backing up to China late last month, students at one technical college in East China’s Jiangxi province found out from a television show that they wouldn’t be getting the four-year university diplomas they had been promised, and some started rioting. There was bloggage here, here and camera footage posted here, but the story didn’t hit YouTube until a few days later. Video clips of the two thousand-strong team of police and soldiers arriving at the school, moving in, inspecting dorms, chasing students and attacking them here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7.

To give you a taste, here’s video number 7, showing the police dispersing protesters:

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZsmyYdsoq4]

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Filed under: Cyber-Activism, East Asia, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Military, Police, Politics, Protest, Technology, 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