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

Caught On Camera: Human Rights Videos on GV [via GV/WITNESS]

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

You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s been Saddam, Saddam, Saddam, in recent weeks, but GV has covered other human rights videos that deserve a bit of limelight – so, in this regular new feature, I’m going to round up the best of those recent stories.

Something for WITNESS’s Amazon Wishlist [via Veronica]

First to Pawlina, host of a Ukrainian radio show in Vancouver, Canada, who blogs about human trafficking at The Natashas. After her post in late December commending Ukrainian pop star Ruslana for releasing a video condemning human trafficking, Pawlina praises another musician, Peter Gabriel, for founding WITNESS, but, under the title “Some human rights abuses harder to expose than others”, offers some advice:

It’s very commendable of rock stars to help expose human rights abuses around the world.

British rock legend Peter Gabriel has formd an organization called Witness that provides video equipment to human rights activists to record such abuses.

I suspect he may not be aware of the horrific abuses suffered by hundreds of thousands of young women and even children, at the hands of human traffickers pandering to men seeking instant, no-strings-attached sexual gratification.

In which case, someone should send him a copy of The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade.

Then again, no doubt it would be extremely difficult to film what goes on behind the closed doors and barred windows of brothels and “breaking grounds”, much less expose it to public view.

In fact WITNESS did produce a documentary about trafficking in 1997, Bought And Sold, but Pawlina’s right – it’s proving quite difficult to find footage from behind those “closed doors and barred windows” – so if you have seen, or even filmed footage of that kind, please email me (email address at the end of the article) to let me know.

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Filed under: Cellphone, Dalits, Elections, Governance, Human Rights, Internet, Law, Military, Online Video, South Asia, Technology, Trafficking, Violence, WITNESS, Women

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

Egypt: Bloggers open the door to police brutality debate [via GV/WITNESS]

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

‘Extraordinary rendition’ has passed into common parlance over the last year as human rights organisations have accused the US government of exporting suspects to be tortured in regimes like Egypt, Morocco and Syria. But while cases involving international suspects get the headlines, these countries are regularly cited by human rights activists as having a major domestic torture problem, with the police in particular seeming to act with total impunity.

Now in Egypt, bloggers have struck a blow against police torture, by publicising videos shot by police officers of their colleagues beating suspects, and of police cadets receiving training. Add to this articles in the independent press and protests by civil society organisations, what’s fast becoming a national campaign is gathering momentum.

Demagh Mak and Wael Abbas writing in Arabic, and others writing in English, such as Hossam e-Hamalawy, have consistently sought out and brought to light videos of incidents of police brutality on their blogs over the past few months. It’s videos like this one – uploaded by Wael Abbas – that appear to be shifting the debate:

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

As reported by Hossam el-Hamalawy, an investigation has been launched into the conduct of the officer shown slapping the suspect in the above video, although it has now emerged that the officer in question has not yet been suspended from duty.

The brutality of Egypt’s police is not a new story – Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights have regularly documented and condemned police brutality in briefings and reports.

But sustained pressure from the bloggers, and the publication of an investigative piece into the police torture video in the independent Egyptian weekly newspaper, El-Fagr, have forced the story into the mainstream. On 27th November 2006, El-Fagr published an expose on violence against suspects in the country’s police stations, identifying the officers in the video above, and describing a second, much more brutal video.

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Filed under: Cellphone, Citizen Journalism, Cyber-Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Journalism, Law, Middle East & North Africa, Mobile, Online Video, Police, Politics, Prisons, Protest, Technology, 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

Egypt: Cairo’s women speak out against violence [via GV/WITNESS]

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

In the run-up to the annual global campaign for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Egypt’s First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak, addressing a meeting of the Arab Women’s Organisation, issued a heartfelt plea:

What shall we do to face challenges of discrimination, extremism and religious fanaticism?

It’s a vexing question – and one to which women back home in Egypt would have a very specific answer: stop ignoring violence against women even when it’s become an international scandal thanks to citizen video and the internet.

In her speech, Mrs Mubarak failed to make even a passing reference to what had happened to tens of women in her home city of Cairo just a couple of weeks before. A wave of attacks on women in downtown Cairo erupted on the Muslim feast day of Eid Al Fitr, October 24th 2006, when large groups of men attacked several women in the street, as Manal and Alaa’s bit bucket relates. But this wasn’t a one-off – in January 2006, on Eid al Adha, film-maker Sherif Sadek was back in Cairo, when he heard a commotion on the street outside his downtown apartment. Sherif grabbed his camera and leaned out the window to film the video presented below.

Synopsis

Initially it’s a little difficult to tell what is going on in the video – there are crowds in the middle of the street, which looks unusual – but after about 25 seconds, you will see two or three men leading four or five girls down the street past the building from which Sherif is filming. The crowd behind them is extremely large, a couple of hundred strong, and soon surrounds the girls (around 1’20). They then pass down a side-street, partially out of view, which gives Sherif time to spot a man in uniform – a police officer? – looking down the street at the commotion, who then gets back in his vehicle (1’50). Sections of the crowd then come running back round the corner, although it’s not clear whether they have the girls with them or not.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2SGamUeMec]

The October attacks took a similar form. GV’s Amira al Hussaini rounds up the best blog coverage of the October attacks, including Forsoothsayer’s translation of blogger Wael Abbas‘s eye-witness account, and Mechanical Crowds’ attempt to pull together the key facts.

Most strikingly, one of the victims of the Eid al Fitr attacks seems to have found a voice through the medium of blogging. Wounded Girl From Cairo appears to be by one of the women attacked on Eid al Fitr, and her description of her ordeal is required reading.

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Filed under: Governance, GV, Human Rights, Internet, Middle East & North Africa, Online Video, Politics, Protest, Technology, WITNESS, Women

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

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