Posts Tagged ‘2012’

About the growing importance of images in the human rights world and the big challenges it poses

January 16, 2013

Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, executive director of the US-based NGO Witness, wrote a post in the Huffington Post of 15 January about this fascinating topic on the occasion of Witness’ 20th anniversary. Here are some quotes before making a more critical comment:

Twenty years ago, WITNESS was created because a world with many cameras — a world “where the eyes of the world are opened to human rights” — did not yet exist, a big bold vision at the time. Today, building on two decades of experience in creating tangible human rights change by exposing the truth through video, we are envisioning the next frontier: a world where video is not only ubiquitous, but has given millions the power to hold human rights abusers accountable, to deliver justice and to transform the human rights landscape.”….”So in 2013 and beyond, we are committed to building “video-for-change” communities, supporting networks of human rights defenders, from communities fighting forced evictions in Brazil to youth in the U.S. campaigning to protect the environment.”

In 2012, Witness launched the Human Rights Channel in partnership with YouTube and Storyful to ensure that important human rights stories are seen and contextualized. “We are committing in 2013 and beyond to take on the systems. The technology companies that run the platforms must create more human rights friendly spaces for all of us. And we decided to focus on the international legal systems to improve the understanding of how to authenticate citizen media to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable. We are working to achieve this vision by partnering and sharing in order to meet the challenge in front of us. We’ll join forces with technology mavens and mobile developers, with courageous human rights defenders worldwide, with brave bloggers, with witnessing citizens, with peer networks and effective organizations.”

Witness has indeed greatly advanced the use of images in the struggle for human rights and its future plans are daunting. What is missing – understandably in a piece that celebrates the achievement of a group’s anniversary – is the wider picture of what the human rights movement is doing with images. From the visualization of human rights defenders (the Martin Ennals Award, Front Line Defenders, Rights Livelihood Awards, Tulip Award, Civil Rights Defenders, HRF to mention just some who regularly make film portraits and/or stream their proceedings), the production of films on HRDs (e.g. True Heroes foundation),  the systematization of access to images (e.g. by HURIDOCS) and the showing of films by a myriad of human rights film festivals (HRW, AI, Movies that Matter, and some 30 others). This modest blog alone has made some 60 references to the use of film images for human rights, many by Witness and the organizations mentioned above.

I mentioning this not because of ‘fairness’ in the sense that others need to be mentioned also, but because the full scope of the challenges ahead needs to be seen and addressed. Human rights images face the same problems as documentation: (1) information overload; (2) finding the most relevant information (even more daunting for images as searching directly on images is still far away); (3) authenticity and veracity; (4) ensuring quantity and quality  of dissemination (what goes ‘viral’ is not necessarily what serves human rights) and (5) protecting of sources and participants (have the persons in the film given informed consent?). And I am sure there are quite a few other important issues.

So when the executive director of Witness states that it excites her “that we, together with so many allies, are taking the challenge for the future head on“, one must hope that it includes all those who can contribute to her vision of a world ” where many, many more citizens and human rights defenders have access to knowledge, skills and tools enabling them to create compelling, trustable videos and to make sure that their video is acted upon and human rights change happens.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/witness/human-rights-2013_b_2475221.html

Follow Witness on Twitter: www.twitter.com/witnessorg  see its annual report:  annual report

Women Human Rights Defenders in 2012: Rosalyn Warren in the Huffington Post

January 7, 2013

On 7 January 2013, Rosalyn Warren posted the following worthwhile round up of woman HRDs in 2012:

On Human Rights Day on the 10th December 2012, the UN called on the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their “voice heard.” What Human Rights day also marked was the murder of Nadia Sadiqi, a women’s activist and an Afghan official in charge of women’s affairs, who was murdered by two unidentified gunmen while on her way to work.

This marked the end of a year in which attempts to brutally suppress human rights defenders continued: Nadia Sadiqi had only just taken over the job role after her predecessor, Hanifa Safi, was assassinated in a bomb attack in July. Women have long held a crucial and leading role in human rights advocacy, but living in a time where in some parts of the world human rights defenders are facing escalating levels of intimidation, harassment and attacks, and violence against women is endemic everywhere both at home and abroad, we heard the voices of women fighting for human rights loud and clear, and more so than ever before. As a young, female, human rights activist myself, this only reinforces my view that the fight for human rights led by girls and women is of even more importance moving into 2013.

United Nations officials marked Human Rights Day by declaring that everyone has the right to be heard: nevertheless, the next generation of women human rights defenders still face much of the same danger before them when they speak out. When journalist and human rights activist Natalya Estemirova was abducted and murdered by armed men in Grozny, Chechen Republic in 2009, it was a stark reminder of the dangerous consequences of being a vocal voice for human rights in Russia. Fast-forward three years, and human rights activism in Russia has a new face: Pussy Riot. Pussy Riot were not callously murdered for their activism, like the ever-growing list of journalists murdered for their human rights and political reporting, and justice for Natalia Estermedia is still being called for — but what Pussy Riot did do was wave a flag to the world that said that the women fighting for rights in their country will not be ignored, forgotten or silenced.

The next generation of females fighting for human rights is also getting younger. When 15 year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for her efforts to defend the education of girls in October, a denunciation of targeting girls and women through violence in an attempt to silence them was echoed around the world. Michelle Bachelet the executive director of UN Women, marked Human Rights Day by commenting that this stifling of girls and women’s voices is hiding back progress for women and all members of society, stating: “Women’s participation is fundamental for sustainable development, peace and democracy.” They may have tried to silence Malala, but she continues to inspire her generation to participate in the struggle for basic rights such as education. This was shown with 21 year-old Afghan activist Noorjahan Akbar who says in a recent Daily Beast interview that Malala’s shooting only strengthens the fight for girls’ rights: “Maybe 10 to 12 years ago, people wouldn’t have held a protest because a young girl was attacked. But now it is happening and people are speaking up against it, fighting, and protesting. That gives me a lot of hope for the future. Not just for me and my work, but for other women.”

But 2012 was not a year in which women stood alone: many men joined them in standing for their human rights. In October, Dr. Denis Mukwege a leading women’s rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo escaped an assassination attempt, just one month after condemning impunity for mass rape in the DRC at a UN speech. But whether it be with Dr. Denis Mukwege, the Kachin women in Burma demanding an investigation into Kachin abuses, or the women and men that are taking to the streets in India today against rape and sexual violence, the message is the same: human rights advocacy is still just as important today as it has ever been.

I felt proud to see so many women as the driving force for human rights in 2012, particularly with the media showing them in their true state: as strong, powerful advocates of basic human rights, not as repressed women unable to speak out. Nadia Sadiqi did not die in vain. On Human Rights Day, the day that marked her murder, a special tribute was made to Malala Yousafzai by UNESCO and Pakistan, with the launch of Malala’s Fund for Girls Education. Let’s hope that 2013 continues to inspire girls and women to get involved with human rights advocacy wherever they are.

Follow Rossalyn Warren on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RossalynWarren