Posts Tagged ‘blog’

Human Rights Films: call for action or entertainment?

March 20, 2018

The 1972 photo of a young girl running naked in Trang Bang screaming in pain from the effects of napalm had a profound influence on the public’s perception of the horrors of the Vietnam War. The 2015 photo of a three-year-old refugee boy drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey also had a profound influence of the public’s perception, this time on the desperate plight of millions of refugees. The images of Phan Thi Kim Phuc and Aylan Kurdi are iconic representations. Both capture larger stories; both images express powerful narratives. 

Visualization is story telling in another form. ……Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s introduced the notion that the medium of communication – movies for instance – change how a message is perceived. Directors can alter time sequences; background music can play directly to our emotions. We have entered new forms of communication that are just beginning to be understood.
The recent Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights was a significant event; 61 films shown in 57 venues in the Swiss Romand and Grand Genève, 28 debates and discussions with important figures such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Catalonian leader Carles Puidgemont as well as a human rights film tour organized by Swiss embassies in 45 countries.
…The images were shocking, almost numbing. We in the theatre became more than viewers, we became indirect witnesses through the lens of the film.
Several directors participated in debates following the presentations. They all expressed hope that the revelations shown on the screen would encourage reaction from the audience beyond the theatre. The purpose of the film, many argued, was to move the attendees and future viewers from watchers – i.e., indirect witnesses – to activists. The films, according to their creators, were calls to action.
McLuhan is most pertinent here. Watching a movie, any movie, is passive/emotional. The director leads us through what he or she wants us to see and feel. We are being literally directed. At a human rights film festival, we are directed, made aware, and called to action. The message of the medium is more than just perception; it is a motivation to do something. But the screen is just a screen, and a silver screen at that. The films were expertly produced. Most were technologically impressive. The cruelty and crudeness of human suffering were presented with all that modernity could offer.
It is the contrast between the rawness of grave breaches of human dignity and the sophistication of the current cinema that somehow reduced the power of the message. If, according to McLuhan, the medium is the message, then the films themselves – with all their slick professionalism – somehow played against a call to action. The excellence of the films was in contradiction to the cruelty and chaos of what they were showing.
.. Human rights activists are turning to visualization to appeal to larger and larger audiences. Visualization is today’s most powerful means of communication and it is becoming more and more sophisticated. The object of human rights’ film makers is to get the message out to the largest audience in an appealing way. The written era of Gutenberg is no longer hot. It is easier to teach students World War II by viewing Saving Private Ryan than to have them read weighty tomes of historical documentation.
If the message of human rights’ films is to witness human rights violations and call to action, professional presentations may be counter-productive. Movies are fundamentally entertainment; however instructive they may be. But when it comes to human rights and their violations, there should be as little entertainment as possible.


Why did so many assume B’Tselem fire was arson?

January 13, 2016

Further to my post about the pressure under which human rights defenders in Israel have to work […] this post by Chelsey Berlin (B’Tselem USA) “The blaze at B’Tselem’s Jerusalem office was an accident, but many of us assumed it was arson”  is telling:

In “Why Did We Assume B’Tselem Fire Was Arson?” she explains the context:  …..”For months, the message that human rights defenders are the problem in Israel has been repeatedly delivered with sledgehammer strength: In Tirtzu’s video labeling four human rights activists, including B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad, “moles”; the government’s ongoing legislative crusade against organizations receiving foreign government funding, and last Thursday’s sensationalized report on an Israeli TV news program that aired false accusations against a B’Tselem field researcher. All this is done to hide the dire situation they expose, the real evil, which is the occupation, the human rights violations it produces in the occupied Palestinian territories and the fascism increasingly required of Israel to maintain it.“….

(When news broke on 10 January 2015 of a fire at B’Tselem’s Jerusalem office most feared the worst: arson. Since then, the smoke has cleared — literally — and a preliminary investigation has been concluded. The Jerusalem fire brigade has announced that the cause of the fire was likely an electrical fault.)

Source: Why Did We Assume B’Tselem Fire Was Arson? – Opinion –

Over 1000 muslims formed ring of peace around a synagogue in Oslo

February 23, 2015

From the blog “News You May Have Missed” I picked up this interesting news item showing how each person can be a human rights defender when they want to:

Photo from Muslim Public Affairs Council's Facebook pagePhoto from Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Facebook page

More than 1000 Muslims formed a human shield around a synagogue in Oslo, Norway on February 21  in response to the attack on a synagogue in Denmark last weekend.  Chanting “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,” an estimated 1200-1400 Norwegian Muslims formed a “ring of peace” around the synagogue, offering symbolic protection for the city’s Jewish community.  See video coverage on the NRK website here.  One of the speakers in the video is 17-year-old Hajrah Asrhad, one of the event’s organizers.

News You May Have Missed (15-21 February 2015) – The Human Rights Warrior.

My Blog on HRDs: 2014 overview

December 30, 2014

At the end of this year I want to wish my readers a very Happy New Year and to share – in the good tradition of transparency – the main statistics of my blog on human rights defenders in 2014. It clearly is a ‘niche blog’ and that is what it will remain. I am quite happy with the relatively large number of archives visitors, i.e. some 40 persons per day find something worthwhile in my older posts. Also the geographical spread is pleasing. Of course, a larger number of visitors would be even better and I would be grateful for any promotion you could undertake. All the best Hans

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Read the rest of this entry »

Video clip from 2010 by the UN focuses on Human Rights Defenders

February 20, 2014

As I had only just started my blog “Thoolen on Human Rights Defenders” in 2010, I must have missed a number of interesting things, such as this video uploaded to You Tube by the UN on 1 December 2010. Against the background music of Stand Up for Your Rights by Bob Marley, this video give the floor to some ‘ordinary human rights defenders’ from various parts of the world. Human Rights Day of 10 December 2010 was dedicated to human rights defenders who battle against discrimination. For the record.

My blog on Human Rights Defenders in 2013: a review

January 3, 2014

A bit of transparency to start the New Year: My blog on Human Rights Defenders was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013.  In 2013, I created 644 new posts, bringing the total archive of this blog to 1,056 posts. The busiest day of the year was December 20th with 929 views [most popular post: Mariah Carey needs better-informed staff and donate her 1 million fee to Human Rights Defenders in Angola].

For those interested in more details: Click here to see the complete report.

My post number 1000: Human Rights Awards finally made accessible for and by True Heroes

November 27, 2013

To mark my post number 1000, I have chosen the subject of human rights awards, timely as today, 27 November, is also the LAUNCH OF THE TRUE HEROES AWARDS DIGEST on  The number of human rights awards has exploded with over 50 new awards created in just the last decade, bringing the total number to well over 100. Most of the research was done when I was writing an article on Human Rights Awards for the Special Issue of the OUP Journal of Human Rights Practice on ‘The Protection of Human Rights Defenders” which comes out on 29 November (for more info go to: Doing the research I found that the information on awards is scattered all over the internet and that human rights defenders would greatly benefit if the dat were put all together in a searchable way in a single Digest.

Read the rest of this entry »

Iran — Can Human Rights Defenders start thinking about a safe return?

November 19, 2013


Things are clearly changing in Iran. It is too early to think that human rights defenders can all safely go back, but the fact that Arseh Sevom – a moderate and informative blog voice on Iran –  devotes a part of today’s post by Peyman Majidzadeh to this question is telling. Here are some excerpts: Read the rest of this entry »

To boycott or not: Rebecca Vincent devotes a post to this issue after seeing the Malmo Eurovision song festival

May 20, 2013

A long and very interesting blog post on Al-Jazeera ( by Rebecca Vincent goes back to Azerbaijan 2012 and reflects on the pros and cons of boycotts as an action to tool for human rights defenders:
“As an estimated 125 million viewers tuned in to watch the grand final of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden, on May 18, I could not help but think how different this year’s Eurovision experience was from last year’s, when the contest was held in Baku, Azerbaijan.   Read the rest of this entry »

Yoga and Human Rights: stretching for human rights defenders

May 2, 2013

Sometimes my eyes fall on more esoteric contributions to the protection of human rights defenders. Let me share with you Mark Laham’s blog post for the Huffington Times of the 1st of May 2013 which calls for a “borderless” one-hour live online yoga class in honour of Nasrin Sotoudeh, the Iranian lawyer in jail, recipient of the Sakharov Award and Nominee  of the MEA 2012.  Mark got inspired – through AI – by what he read about Nasrin’s struggle and other brave human rights defenders around the world. “How does Nasrin’s story make you feel?” he asks, ” Me, I…I feel the need to do something that will create positive change for this woman and countless others like her.NASRIN_SOTOUDEH_PORTRAIT Read the rest of this entry »