Bettina Peters, Director of the Global Forum for Media Development, an association of around 500 media assistance groups around the world, kindly invited me to introduce the new WITNESS Cameras Everywhere report to GFMD members in the latest GFMD Insider briefing. Here’s a cross-post of the piece, which speaks particularly to those involved in media assistance and journalism.
Cameras Everywhere: Video , Human Rights and Media
When I spoke on behalf of the human rights organization WITNESS at the 2008 Global Forum for Media Development conference in Athens – about what the emerging ecosystem of citizen video meant for media development, journalism and human rights – the Greek capital was itself in the throes of major protests and civil unrest. Like many other attendees, I went to Syntagma Square to take a look for myself. As I walked the protest route, I tweeted about the march, the clashes with police, and the aftermath – and I uploaded a few eyewitness videos. But I was one of the few, if not the only, conference participants doing so, it seemed.
Fast forward to today, and this kind of eyewitness video is increasingly central to human rights work – and journalism. It has been critical in drawing attention to corruption, torture, denial of rights, and repression around the world. More human rights video is being captured and shared by more people in more places than ever before, often in real time. It is happening in organized and spontaneous ways, by people with training and without. And unlike the past, when this footage was largely mediated through news media, much of it is reaching the public unfiltered. Video, often live video, alongside other social media, was critical in the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. Media and the public have relied on these firsthand accounts to a striking degree.
These videos are shared, however, in corporate social media spaces and via mobile phone carriers (YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Vodafone, for example), many of which never before regarded themselves as having a stake in human rights. This is bringing a new range of players – often unwittingly – into the human rights field. By virtue of the sheer numbers of people using their products to report and expose human rights violations, these companies have both a stake and a say in how human rights are understood and handled worldwide, and they are increasingly being pressed to meet these responsibilities.