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[Cross-posted from the WITNESS Hub Blog]

Here’s a remarkable video showing a Twitter revolt in action:

It shows how the terms #trafigura, #carterruck, #dumping, #scandal and other Twitter hashtags gathered pace last night and this morning as news of a secret injunction gagging The Guardian newspaper emerged. The paper had intended to report the name of a Member of Parliament who asked a question in Parliament regarding the alleged dumping of toxic waste by oil company Trafigura – but (in a move weirdly reminiscent of the BBC drama State Of Play) The Guardian was banned from publishing the name, or indeed talking about what they were banned from publishing. The injunction was today withdrawn by Carter-Ruck solicitors, after the Twitter revolt you watched above – it’s being heralded as yet another example of Twitter and other online spaces being used to outflank those who would suppress information and obstruct transparency, a phenomenon dubbed the Streisand Effect. The Guardian is now reporting that MP Paul Farrelly asked this question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.”

Why is this question important, and why has Trafigura taken on other media that report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast (pdf)? Watch this edition of Al Jazeera’s People & Power, in which Juliana Ruhfus confronts the scandal head-on:

(Thanks to @cleanyoungbob for tweeting this video. Here’s a Q+A with Juliana about the series Corporations On Trial, of which this film is a part.)

Additonal links:

Here’s the Newsnight story that triggered the legal action I mention above: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/8048626.stm

Here’s Padraig Reidy of Index On Censorship: “It cannot be overstated how utterly contrary to democracy this development is. Representative democracy depends on the concept that parliamentarians can speak without fear, and the public can listen to and read what they say, whether sitting in the gallery or through print, broadcast and online media. Democracy, perhaps even more so than justice, must not just be practised: it must be seen to be practised.”

There’s actually a blog that follows the full range of information suppression orders prompted by celebrities, governments, corporations and others: www.thestreisandeffect.com

[Cross-posted from the WITNESS Hub Blog.]

WITNESS has a proud history of participating in, supporting and even awarding prizes at film festivals, but we’ve never tried to cover a film festival before here on the Hub.  So it was with a little trepidation that we asked the good people over at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York City if they’d let us loose on their 20th anniversary festival…  Here’s John Biaggi on the idea behind the festival:

I’m really happy that they agreed, and with this first experiment (which we could not have carried out without a battalion of clear-eyed and committed interns) – I’m already looking forward to next year’s edition.  With a handful of posts yet to go up, we’ve already notched up perspectives on films in the festival, audience reactions, filmmakers interviews, and even an extended interview with the festival director – all shedding light on the relationship between moving images and change.  As the nature of film creation, distribution and exhibition changes, we’ll be tracking how major meeting-points like the HRWIFF evolve to meet the challenges of building public engagement, debate and participation in human rights in a new participatory landscape…

Here’s the full list (I’ll update these links once all the posts are in – including my own…):

Film reviews, reactions and filmmaker interviews:
– Youth Producing Change Program (+ audience reactions 123 and 4)
– Mrs Goundo’s Daughter (+ filmmaker interview)
– Look Into My Eyes filmmaker interview
– Crude (interview with director Joe Berlinger to come)
– Good Fortune interview with director Landon Van Soest
– The Reckoning
– The Yes Men Fix The World

Interview:
John Biaggi, Festival Director (short versionfull version)

In other coverage, TakePart.com has pieces on The ReckoningGood FortuneMy Neighbour, My KillerSnow, and Afghan Star.  And writer/lawyer Deji Olukotun, who covered our panel in the PEN World Voices Festivalearlier this year, wrote to let us know about the series of reviews he has written of many of the HRWIFF films mentioned above.  If you’ve seen or written about the films in the festival too, please feel free to let us know via the comments box below – we’d love to hear a wide range of perspectives on the films…  And don’t forget you can also comment on the individual blog posts and video interview pages.  Get stuck in!

 

[Cross-posted from the WITNESS Hub Blog.]

Xinhua is reporting that more than 150 people have died in the clashes in Urumqi since 5th July, and more than 1,000 have been injured.

Riot police have been deployed to quell the protests, which began over the perceived mishandling by local authorities of a fight at a toy factory (listen to this overview from The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts) – today they dispersed protests both by Uighur women demanding the release of young Uighur men, and by Han Chinese men wielding weapons.  The Guardian’s Dan Chung and Tania Branigan were on a media tour organised by the Chinese authorities when they came across the Uighur women’s protest – click the image below to watch their video report.

Xinjiang protests

Over the course of today, we’ll point to key bits of analysis and footage coming out of Xinjiang (in addition to the sources I pointed to on Sunday – notably ESWN is compiling a lot of sources, and The Guardian’s got a good round-up of web-based coverage).  Here’s a note of interest about China’s information suppression strategy from the NYT today:

Internally, censors tightly controlled media coverage of the unrest and sought to disable the social networks that opponents might use to organize more demonstrations. Cellphone calls to Urumqi and nearby areas have largely been blocked. Twitter was shut down nationwide at midday Monday; a Chinese equivalent, Fanfou, was running, but Urumqi-related searches were blocked.

Chinese search engines no longer give replies for searches related to the violence. Results of a Google search on Monday for “Xinjiang rioting” turned up many links that had already been deleted on such well-trafficked Chinese Internet forums as Mop and Tianya.

BBCAccounts of Xinjiang violence |   Q+A on China and the Uighur minority |  Images of today’s protests

NYTNew protests in Western China after deadly clashes |  Photo sildeshow |   More about China’s Uighur minority |  Media tour goes very, very badly for the Chinese authorities

Protests outside Chinese embassiesNorway |  Turkey |  Germany |  Netherlands

 

[Cross-posted from the WITNESS Hub Blog.]

As part of our work at WITNESS we conduct trainings preparing advocates to be able to shoot, edit and distribute video for effective human rights advocacy (watch some participant interviews).  We’ve also created a set of short videos that take you through the basics of creating video for human rights advocacy.  Though this training doesn’t yet formally include how to create multimedia packages for human rights advocacy, we’re always on the look-out for good examples of multimedia advocacy and training that we can learn from and share (Chris is particularly watchful).

Of the recent pieces I’ve watched, this behind-the-scenes look at a recent training by MediaStorm, one of the world’s most respected multimedia reporting outfits, was one of the best put-together, and works as a nice introduction to the process of multimedia reporting. [Click the image below to launch the video in a new window.]

Brian Storm

[UPDATE paragraph]  MediaStorm has been working on some very nifty pieces with the Council on Foreign Relations, notably a new series of multimedia launchpads into global governance issues, starting with nuclear nonproliferation (coinciding with President Obama’s talks in Russia).

So where are we headed in this arena?  Earlier this year, Tina Singleton attended the BAVC Producers’ Institute, and which connects those used to doing more linear documentary work with multimedia methods of storytelling to create new kinds of layered, multi-platform work (BAVC’s Wendy Levy kindly asked Tina and me to screen proposals for this year – a very interesting process).  We’ll be collaborating with them more deeply next year – more on this and other initiatives later.  In the meantime, we’ll keep highlighting important multimedia work that finds new ways to tell familiar human rights stories.

That’s where you can help…  Have you seen other great examples of multimedia reporting on human rights?  Essential training videos explaining how to do multimedia reporting?  Let us know via the comments box below.

 

[Cross-posted from the WITNESS Hub Blog.]

Here’s a Guardian video (and news story) from a couple of weeks ago which offers some useful insights for those working to document and expose police brutality and misconduct worldwide, and to those within police forces charged with investigating such misconduct and developing policies for transparency and accountability.

Two female protesters [protesting against the Kingsnorth power station in the UK] who challenged police officers for not displaying their badge numbers were bundled to the ground, arrested and held in prison for four days, according to an official complaint lodged today.

The incident was caught on camera, and footage shows officers standing on the women’s feet and applying pressure to their necks immediately after the women attempted to photograph a fellow officer who had refused to give his badge number.

The images are likely to fuel concern over the policing of protests, which is already subject to a review by the national police inspectorate and two parliamentary inquiries after the G20 demonstrations and the death of Ian Tomlinson.

[…] Fit Watch activists are opposed to police forward intelligence teams (Fits), the mobile surveillance units that monitor campaigners at demonstrations and meetings. Campaigners affiliated to the group film surveillance officers in action and upload their details to a website.

The footage that exposed the harsh arrest techniques, the rapid and unexplained escalation of the use of force, and this police team’s awareness of FIT Watch (whom you can follow on Twitter), was filmed by the police unit’s own surveillance cameras.  At one point in the video, the filming officer trains his camera on colleagues arresting Emily Apple, one of the FIT Watch team, and lets them know that the “camera [is] recording” (1’34 into the video) – although they don’t seem to change their approach to the arrest.  What isn’t quite clear is whether this incident would have come to light without the intervention of The Guardian (via Freedom of Information requests?)  Is this kind of video-based accountability is already structured into the operations of police FITs (if anyone can shed light on this, please do)?

Either way, as police forces in the UK and USA increase their use of head-mounted and gun-mounted recording technologies and evidentiary video databases to document incidents during frontline policing (building on previous pilot schemes), the opportunities to scrutinise policing tactics and to force this kind of transparency will be ever more numerous.  Activists too will need to continue to evolve their own documentation strategies and equipment in response, including continued experimentation with live mobile video…  (In case you’re interested, here are a couple of police-focused sites that discuss the issues and challenges of video documentation in the context of police work: Force Science News and Spartan Cops – the latter site of of particular interest for those interested in understanding the use of force in police tactics more generally.)

Police wearing life-cams sounds very much like what Professor John Keane called “communicative abundance” – and this is a key part of his newest idea, “monitory democracy“.  According to Keane, it’s an emerging type of democracy that supplements and complicates representative democracy – in “monitory democracy”, all kinds of decision-makers (governmental, inter-governmental, non-governmental, business, military, etc) are subjected to scrutiny in multiple directions, enabled in part by that “communicative abundance” – including mass media, social media, and personal media.  You can read Keane’s own description of the idea here (pdf) or look at an illustration of the idea.  I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few weeks about this idea, both how it relates to the work that we do here at WITNESS, and more broadly how it has implications for those engaged in video activism and advocacy and in governance – I’ll discuss this in a later post.

Today I just wanted to look at the above example of how interlocking forms of scrutiny build concretely towards the “monitory democracy” John Keane is talking about.  Whether we’re looking at activists working to expose police corruption in Morocco, the Israeli authorities turning to B’Tselem for video evidence of military misconduct, or the UK police asking the public to contribute their personal media to the Ian Tomlinson/G20 investigation, we could begin to see it as part of “monitory democracy”.  John Keane makes India his key example for the evolution of “monitory democracy”, but one has to wonder what changes might occur if video systems to monitor police conduct were widely deployed in the cities of India – or perhaps the favelas of Brazil, where thousands of fatal shootings by police over the past few years have been ascribed to “resisting arrest”.  I’ll return to look specifically at these ideas soon – but feel free to take them on yourselves!

(Thanks to Francesca Silvani for introducing me to the work of John Keane and its links with video activism and advocacy. Incidentally, Keane gave a lecture on “monitory democracy” in Spain in February – worth watching.)

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UPDATE:
forgot to mention that Keane specifically links the rise of this new kind of democracy with new developments since 1948, and crucially to human rights. Listen to him in conversation with the BBC’s Andrew Marr here on that very topic:
http://www.johnkeane.net/media/audio/bbc_start_week_8_june_2009/keane_8_…