On being a citizen reporter: an international perspective, part IV


This was a presentation by Bryan Nunez, Technology Manager of WITNESS, to OhmyNews International Citizen Reporters’ Forum held in Seoul, Korea on July 14. WITNESS was featured on CNN and PBS show NOW. NOW host David Brancaccio interviewed Peter Gabriel on Human Rights,devoting an entire program on Peter’s dedication to human rights issues and on WITNESS’ work. Mr. Gabriel, an internationally known musician, is on WITNESS’ Board of Directors.

Bryan Nunez, Technology Manager of WITNESS.org

WITNESS is a human rights organization based in the U.S. Theirs is a human rights perspective but one that employs technology rather than having technology as their focus.

WITNESS’ current model is to equip and train other human rights organizations on the ground with video equipment to capture and document human rights violations. Their first operational model was to establish a few core partners with whom to work and provide strategic guidance in addition to equipment, training and periodic assessments of successes and impacts.

Another model WITNESS has more recently employed is “seeding video advocacy” where they address a wider audience than is accessible through the few core partners. They seed communities seeking social justice with ubiquitous technologies such as video cameras (in their various forms). This, in turn, has increased the expectations of various groups as to the beneficial impact of Witness’s work and further spread word of their work.

On their home page they employ their “Rights Alerts” which are calls to action and video alerts done in partnerships with groups such as Democracy in Action. Such groups provide extended services, such as hosting their petitions, allowing users to sign petitions or write to local representatives via fax or email.

A new effort, not yet launched, is their Human Rights Video “HUB”. The HUB is a complement to the existing WITNESS models. Just as they progressed from core partnerships to seeds in order to cast a wider net, this is a third provision of services. With the HUB they seek to help users create mobile content (employing Web 2.0 technologies) for those who do not have access.

To do this they seek greater mobile access for people in the global southern hemisphere. They are looking to social networking and content aggregation by utilizing existing Web sites. Better to use what exists now rather than reinvent it.

There are definite concerns, such as maintaining human rights standards and securing protection from governments through privacy implementations. Anonymity provides protection against potential dangers, so any technologies that provide anonymity can help prevent unwarranted persecution.

HUB will be partnering with other groups, including Global Voices online and OneWorldTV to provide greater exposure for their submissions. Because the video may require translation for a larger audience, they are working with dotSUB and Babel Fish to arrange for translation services. In addition, they are working with www.transmission.cc, a group of video makers, programmers and web producers developing online video distribution standards as a tool for social justice and media democracy.

©2006 Gregory Daigle. A version of this article has also appeared in OhmyNews.