Posts Tagged ‘True Heroes Foundation’

2014 heralds the age of images in human rights work

December 28, 2013

To illustrate the increased use of video and images in the human rights world, just scroll down and get a feel of the amount and variety through some examples, mostly from the end of this year:

Human Rights Watch produced an end-of-year 2013 overview.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is announces the latest issue of its weekly video news bulletin (episode number 10).

Amnesty International used a slick production to get attention for the fate of Syrian refugees in Europe (not explaining why other regions are not targeted by the way).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights used this video to address the world on Human Rights Day 2013;

Inspirational resilience: Celebrating Human Rights Defenders in Eurasia | Freedom House.

On Human Rights Day, US-based Freedom House recognized the work of HRDs in the Eurasia region with a slide show on: Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan.

The International Service for Human Rights in Geneva presents its work with a video.

Human Rights First used YouTube to announce its fundraising live stream for the end of the year.

There are of course many more examples, quite a few referred to in this blog over the years, such as those of the MEA: but  a special mention should be made of

the organisation Witness in the USA which has pioneered the use of video cameras in the hands of human rights defenders.

When the internet some 25 years ago made it possible to send and ‘publish’ almost unlimited amounts texts, the original euphoria in the human rights movement (whose main weapon is after all documentation) was quickly dampened somewhat when it also led to information overkill. Something similar is bound to happen with images which can now be ‘published’ and transmitted as easily as documents (but without the free-text search capacity). On the other hand there will be new possibilities and different ways of getting the human rights ‘stories’ across, especially on mobile devices used increasingly by younger generations.
The True Heroes Foundation – of which I am a founding Board member – wants to follow and use this development in a way that Human Rights Defenders derive maximum benefit from the new information and communication technology. It hopes to do so by making stories and images of HRDs the most eminent entry point for those seeking information on human rights in the near future. Keep following this blog and the website in the coming year for ….I am afraid …yet MORE information!!
With these thoughts, I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST FOR 2014.
Related articles

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 »

And a lot more about Werner Lottje: the great German human rights defender

November 16, 2013

In the presence of the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the MEA Laureates of 2013: the Joint Mobile Group, the family of Werner Lottje (his wife Margit and the children) and some 90 other participants we had on 13 November 2013 the first WERNER LOTTJE LECTURE in Berlin. It was an impressive affair and the organisers, Bread for the World and the German Institute for Human Rights, can look back on a successful launch of this annual event. There were many good tributes to Werner’s life and contribution. Igor Kalyapin of the JMG explained the terrible conditions under which his team has to operate in Russia and Margaret Sekaggya concluded with a wide-ranging overview of obstacles that HRDs all over the world face. A short, impressive film brought the person of Werner to life.

Here I am providing you the full text my own speech on this occasion, not only because I have it handy but because it concerns mostly the international part of his work:

Thinking outside the box – Werner Lottje as an international networker”

Read the rest of this entry »

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.”

Follow Witness on Twitter:  see its annual report:  annual report

Short video with summary portraits of the winners of the Tulip award

January 11, 2013

A short documentary about the five winners of the Human Rights Tulip Award, the award of the Dutch government for human rights defenders. The winners are from Honduras, Congo, Iran, China and India. The films were done by the True Heroes Foundation (THF).


Human Rights Defenders Tulip 2012 awarded to Indian campaigner Barathan

December 17, 2012

The Jury for the Dutch Human Rights Defenders Tulip has awarded the 2012 Tulip to Marimuthu Barathan (note that the spelling is sometimes Bharatan) from India. It will be presented in The Hague on 9 January 2013. True Heroes is making a filmed portrait on his work.

The jury praised Mr Barathan as a ‘tireless campaigner for better living and working conditions for the Dalits in India’.The Human Rights Defenders Tulip, which is being awarded for the fifth time, comprises a statuette and €100,000 for a project to be decided on in consultation with the recipient.

via Human Rights Defenders Tulip 2012 awarded to Indian campaigner | News item |

Barbara Hendricks – a human rights defender of a special kind

November 2, 2012

Barbara Hendricks at MEA ceremony 2003 with late Sergio Vieira de Mello and Alirio Uribe Munoz

The trigger to write about this very special person is that she has just been celebrated as UNHCR’s Goodwill ambassador for 25 years.

You are really the princess of the humanitarian and human rights world,” High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said at a special UNHCR staff ceremony in Geneva. “The authority of your voice is a precious instrument for our fight,” he added. “Twenty-five years – it’s a long time and the cause of refugees has been a part of my life since my first mission,” said Hendricks, adding that it had been an honour to work for UNHCR. She praised the refugees who inspire her and the UNHCR staff who help them. “Thank you so much. It has been a fantastic journey and I look forward to continuing for as long as I can.

What many people do not know is that Barbara Hendricks has not only been a dedicated and outspoken advocate for refugees for the past 25 years, but also been a strong supporter of other causes including human rights, e.g. as a Patron of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders or in giving her support to creating the True Heroes Foundation, Films for Human Rights Defenders in 2007.

The American-born Swedish citizen was inspired by the struggle for civil rights in the USA as a child and never let off. The human rights world needs celebrities but even more it needs celebrities with real and long-term commitment. This is what makes Barbara Hendricks a Human Rights Defender in her own name! Thanks.

True Heroes film on the winner of the Tulip award Ni Yulan now on Facebook

February 9, 2012

In my latest post I referred to the this video which is now available on:

Dutch human rights award, Tulip, given to Chinese lawyer in absentia

February 3, 2012

The christian group that nominated Ms Ni Yulan reported on the ceremony as follows:

Tulip Prize Jury Emphasizes Human Rights over Economic Interests  By Jeremy Reynalds
SURREY, ENGLAND At an official ceremony to award the Dutch Government’s Human Rights Defenders Tulip Prize for 2011 to Chinese legal activist Ni Yulan, the chair of the jury stressed the importance of highlighting China’s human rights record in spite of economic considerations. According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Cisca Dresselhuys, Chair of the Human Rights Defenders Tulip Award 2011 Jury said, “Economic interests must never be a reason to close our mouths on human rights. We should rather have one Human Rights Tulip Award than one exported tulip to China.”  CSW said that Ni Yulan was unable to attend the ceremony due to her detention in Beijing, and her daughter, Dong Xuan, was recently banned from leaving China to accept the prize on her mother’s behalf. Ni Yulan was nominated for the Tulip Award by CSW and China Aid.  Her work as a housing rights activist, defending Beijing residents whose homes were demolished to make way for the 2008 Olympics, resulted in her being imprisoned on several occasions.

CSW said she has also worked on a number of high-profile religious freedom cases. Ni Yulan is in a wheelchair due to beatings received in prison, which left her unable to walk and in poor health.  She was put on trial with her husband in Beijing in Dec. 2011 for “creating a disturbance,” and testified evidence from a hospital bed while on oxygen. The trial did not reach a verdict and the couple remain detained in Beijing. ….
 CSW said Dresselhuys added, “We give the award with pleasure, reverence and joy, but with immense pain in our hearts because she cannot be here.”
A video of Ni Yulan’s life and work [produced by True Heroes, films for HRDS, I may add]was shown at the ceremony, in which she is seen in her wheelchair living in a tent in a park. She says, “In this difficult time the support from others really encourages us. It keeps us alive. I will continue to defend others’ rights. We cannot give up.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice. For further information, go to

Human Rights Day event on Social media in Geneva

December 6, 2011

On 9 December 2011 the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, will moderate an event in Geneva event with the theme, Social Media and Human Rights. The guests will canvass the influence of social media, politically, culturally and socially, at the community, national and international levels. The event, which will be broadcast live on the UN webcastat. Participants include:

Frank La Rue (Guatemala) is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. He is the current Director of the Centro-American Institute for Social Democracy Studies in Guatemala. He holds a degree in law from the University of San Carlos, Guatemala, and a postgraduate degree in U.S. foreign policy from Johns Hopkins University. As founding member and Director of the Centre for Legal Human Rights Action, Mr. La Rue was involved in presenting the first Guatemalan human rights case before the Inter-American Court for Human Rights. He also brought the first case of genocide against the military dictatorship in Guatemala. As a human rights activist, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Wael Abbas (Egypt) is an internationally renowned Egyptian journalist, blogger and human rights activist who blogs at Misr Digital (Egyptian Awareness). He has used his site over the past few years to promote political and social change. Mr. Abbas has been the recipient of many awards acknowledging his efforts as a human rights activist, including being the first blogger to win the International Journalism Award from the International Centre of Journalists in 2007 and the Human Rights Watch’s Hellman/Hammett Award in 2008.

Maite Azuela (Mexico) is a journalist/blogger and activist in social networks. Besides writing for a number of media outlets, including the well-known Mexican daily El Universal, Ms. Azuela is involved in mobilizing local communities through social networks in areas such as education, political reform, transparency and access to information. She has a MA in Public Policy and Administration from Concordia University, Canada and is the founder of movements such as DHP, “On Education”, and a member of the National Citizens’ Assembly (ANCA).

Bassem Bouguerra (Tunisia) describes himself as a “revolutionary by nature and a software engineer by accident.” The 30 year-old Tunisian blogger works as a software architect at Yahoo. Initially, he campaigned for change in his home country from San Francisco but, for the past year, he has split his time between the United States and Tunisia using his blog to advocate for social and political reform. He continues campaigning and has set up an online news site, “The Bouguerra Post”. Mr. Bouguerra plans to return to Tunisia soon.

Ednah Karamagi (Uganda) is a blogger and human rights activist. With a background in community development, she is convinced of the importance of extending appropriate emerging technologies into rural areas. Ms. Karamagi is the Executive Director of BROSDI, a Ugandan non-governmental organization implementing the “Collecting and Exchange of Local Agricultural Content” project. Despite lack of access to the Internet in remote areas, BROSDI uses a variety of media tools – both new and traditional – to improve farmers’ access to information and enhance development and local participation.

Meg Pickard (United Kingdom) is the Head of Digital Engagement for Guardian News & Media, responsible for developing and supporting existing and new social web strategy and interactive experiences. Ms. Pickard comes from a background in social anthropology and in the mid-nineties conducted ethnographic fieldwork into community participation and cultural identity, first in Bolivia and subsequently online. Her particular areas of interest are community engagement and the emergence of new forms of collaborative and participatory media.

Salil Tripathi (United Kingdom) is Policy Director for the Institute for Human Rights and Business, a global centre of excellence and expertise on business and human rights standards. The Indian-born author was earlier a researcher at Amnesty International where he led the organization’s engagement with the Voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights and the Global Compact. Mr. Tripathi writes on subjects including free speech, politics, economics, and social trends for various blogs and publications including India Today, the Far Eastern Economic Review, The Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune.

The True Heroes Foundation (THF) held a similar meeting in April 2010 when the Icelandic ash cloud prevented most participants from attending. These circumstances forced the organizers to really make use of the new media and the result on their website shows it is possible: