Always on the look out for new and interesting uses of video in human rights campaigns, I came across this innovative use of testimony and video by the Courage Campaign. They’re fighting to keep the proceedings of the legal challenge to Proposition 8, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, public. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cameras could be barred from the trial.

Equality on Trial websiteTo address the block, The Courage Campaign launched Equality on Trial, a new website where selected transcripts from the trial (and a link to a site with the full transcripts) are available for viewing and downloading. They’re asking participants to video tape themselves reading a script, then upload it and share it via the website and social networking sites. Read it. Film it. Share it. Pretty low tech – and I think pretty brilliant.

Considerations around televising trials have long been debated in American courtrooms. Lawyers argue that witnesses might be intimidated or change their story if their testimony if broadcast; others suggest that broadcasting the proceedings of important trials help educate the public about some of the complexities in a given case and that knowledge can help temper public outcry or even prevent additional violence.  (Related to this last point, see this article which mentions the 2000 trial of four New York City police officers who were accused of killing the unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo. The trial was moved from the Bronx to Albany, but the presiding judge allowed it to be broadcast live.)

Internationally, broadcasting trials, especially to the public to whom they are most important, is a very difficult proposition. Last year, my colleague Bukeni Waruzi attended the opening week of the first trial ever at the International Criminal Court, which is located in The Hague, Netherlands. The court’s location is thousands of miles from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where citizens had much interest in the case brought against a former militia leader, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. It is in fact part of the ICC’s mandate to ensure that those most impacted and affected have access to the court. In an effort to bring the trial to the public in the DRC, WITNESS worked with the Open Society’s Justice Initiative to produce a summary video of the first few months of proceedings, which was then screened in various locations throughout the eastern DRC.

The Courage Campaign has connections to actors and other high profile individuals who are participating in this “parallel broadcast” of the trial. I’ll be interested to see whether the participation of supporters will help keep the intended media focus on (and more simply, public access to) the trial, which could drag on for years.

Here are a couple of examples of transcript readings on Equality on Trial:
The first featuring actors Marissa Tomei and Josh Lucas –

The second, a sparser video, uploaded by JudeS who describes herself as a mother from Madison, WI –

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