1 year of Human Rights Channel on YouTube: 90 countries. 1,892 videos

May 27, 2013

Twelve months ago, Witness and its partners at Storyful launched the first dedicated space on YouTube for verified citizen video on human rights issues. Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 4.54.46 PMNo one knew precisely where the Channel would be on its first birthday. But discovery is part of the mission: discovery of human rights footage that could be lost in an ever-rising sea of content; discovery of human rights stories that have been hidden in the shadows; and amplification of these videos and their stories, so that news media, investigators, advocates, and other citizens can act on what they see.

The Human Rights Channel curates human rights video on under-covered human rights stories, as seen by citizen witnesses.

Today, ordinary citizens in nearly every corner of the world have the ability to film, upload, and share video from their communities. Through the Channel, Witness has discovered and shared their stories and it learned other things, too:

1. Filming is only the first step
Exposing abuse is the first step to action, but it is not always enough. Sadly, the war in Syria offers an example. Brave citizens risk their lives every day to document the war, but the deluge of footage has not moved the wheels of diplomacy. In fact, one must wonder if it causes foreign eyes to glaze over, uncomfortable with horrific scenes that offer no easy solution. By contextualizing videos in a way foreigners, human rights investigators, and diplomats alike can understand, the Human Rights Channel strives to create useful meaning out of the Syria videos, with playlists examining purported use of chemical weapons, or videos that document apparent war crimes.

2. Video evidence makes a difference.
On the other hand, video can spark action where knowledge alone cannot. Even if a rights violation is known to occur, catching it on camera can be the spark needed for social change. When the police in South Africa fatally abused a man, the citizen video of the incident shocked the country and the world, even though police abuse has been well known and documented in the country. The officers involved in his death have been arrested and are awaiting trial.

3. Cameras may be everywhere, but so is repression.

The Channel's playlists have explanatory captions for each video, and a brief sidebar giving context for the situation.

The Channel’s playlists have explanatory captions for each video, and a brief sidebar giving context for the situation. Professional and citizen journalists, as well as the people in their videos, face the risk of repression by the state or others. That’s why the Human Rights Channel is reaching out to the people behind the camera, sharing tips on how to assess their risk, how to blur the faces of the people in their videos, and, if they witness human rights violations, how to film video that can be utilized by news outlets and investigators.

Click here to subscribe to the Human Rights Channel on Youtube.

Citizen Video for Journalists…and Everyone Else | WITNESS Blog

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