By Sylvie Doppelt
And we’re back for our second installment of WWR to keep you updated on the news and stories WITNESS folks are talking about around the water cooler.

News From Around the World

Syria: Continued Violence and Civil Society
Violence in Syria pervades everywhere, even children’s schools. Last week, a Syrian Government aircraft bombed a school in Aleppo, killing 17 young students. Opposition members traveled this week to the US to ask Secretary of State John Kerry for greater support in defending against the aerial attacks that have killed hundreds in recent months. On May 5th, the Obama administration awarded the opposition movement diplomatic status and $27 million in support.

At the same time, another media outlet is working to shift the conversation around what’s happening in Syria. SyriaUntold, a project run through Global Voices, works with Syrian organizations on the ground in to highlight stories of civil society building and grassroots organizing. You can see another side of Syrian society in the article “Showing the Diversity of the Struggle: SyriaUntold One Year On.”

Seeking Relief in the Central African Republic
This powerful photo journey chronicles the civil unrest, human rights violations, and deep religious divides that have spurred violence and plagued the Central African Republic in recent years. Nearly one million people have left their homes in Bangui, the capital, since 2013, setting up makeshift tents in the desert. And for nearly 60,000, the airport has become both a home and a refuge from violence. But it is not a solution, and over 2.5 million people still need help in the country. The UN and other international relief organizations are calling upon the international community to offer resources to the country in conflict. Unfortunately, as violence inundates the region, Doctors Without Borders is evacuating personnel from the country because 16 civilians, including 3 MSF staffers, were killed last week.

Check out WITNESS’ Human Rights Channel for some of the videos that we have found and curated from the Central African Republic.

Two Years After KONY 2012, when does video advocacy go too far?
We’re tracking other organizations that have used video to call attention to human rights violations, including Invisible Children, which used video to expose the abuse of children abducted and forced into the military by Joseph Kony in Central Africa. Two years ago, WITNESS posted a blog in response to the organization’s “KONY 2012” video, which became the most viral video in history and was also met with severe outrage. WITNESS highlighted the potential impact of video advocacy when it complements local activist activities.

Jason Russell of Invisible Children is now back on his feet after a public breakdown two years ago. Russell and the organization are still working to stop Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has expanded to parts of the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This time, however, Invisible Children is working with new strategies, including attack-prevention programs, data gathering, and community improvement projects.

Here are the 55 Colleges Being Investigated for Allegedly Mishandling Rape Cases
Sexual assault and violence is a problem in need of attention everywhere, even our college campuses. Now, 55 universities are under investigation for allegedly mishandling rape cases. The list of the schools was just released in an effort to increase transparency and awareness.

If you work in the field, be sure view our guide, Conducting Safe, Effective and Ethical Interviews with Survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence, and the and our series of short videos with survivors, filmmakers and researchers that accompanies it.

New Media and the Digital Age

Remembering the Nakba: Israeli group puts 1948 Palestine back on the map
With the Israeli Independence Day quickly approaching, one organization, Zochrot, is working to expose and educate Israelis about what the Independence Day signifies for Palestinians, the Nakba, or catastrophe and displacement. Zochrot developed a phone app that allows users to find Arab towns that were abandoned after 1948, learn about the towns’ history, add media and comments for others, and users can travel to the towns to explore artifacts and history that remain. Zochrot, Hebrew for “Remember,” seeks to bridge the long-divided Arab and Israeli communities in the digital age and raise awareness for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who became refugees in 1948.

A Web App to Sync Multiple Videos from the Same Event
The pervasive nature of cameras and video in today’s world mean that the same event is often filmed from multiple viewpoints. The Rashomon Project is working to develop an open-source toolkit to put the footage together, for a truly 360 degree view of events. And it could also play a significant role in helping to verify citizen video and enable its use as evidence since it’s pretty tough to fake 8 videos at once. Now it’s up to YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo to take the project to the next level and support activists in making video reliable evidence.

In other social media news, Skype recently came out with a free group video chat feature that may one day rival Google Hangouts.

Images and Advocacy
“My photographs became my protest,” claimed Benedict J. Fernandez, one of New York City’s most influential photojournalists. Inspired by seeing the systems of oppression that his Jewish, black, and Latino friends faced, he used the power of photography to chronicle and expose injustice. He photographed some of the critical civil and human rights moments of the last 50 years, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Vietnam War Demonstrations, to the Poor People’s Campaign. Check out the new exhibit at the Bronx Documentary Center with some of Fernandez’s most powerful works.

Cell Phone Privacy?
This week, the Supreme Court will be debating whether or not police have the right to search a person’s phone after an arrest. The ACLU and human rights organizations are advocating against the decision, firmly believing that authorities should not be able to poke around our possessions without a warrant or probable cause. This debate is surfacing along with many others around the Supreme Court’s outdated understanding of ever-evolving technology and its place in the law. Edward Snowden’s exposures sparked additional lawsuits about the NSA’s rights to Americans’ “private” information, and the Courts might need to revisit privacy regulations in our digital society.

Check Your Language Around Digital Preservation
This week is Preservation Week, though some at the Audiovisual Preservation Solutions advocate to switch from the word “preserve” to “sustain.” They believe this more accurately reflects the dynamic nature of archiving. In reality, preservation plays a key role in policy and advocacy development and contextualizing culture, shaping our future, not just holding the past.

Looking for help on preserving your videos? Check out The Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video, our how-to on preserving and sustaining videos.

And Finally…

Hello, Stranger
Here’s a challenge: next time you’re on the Subway, try sitting down and starting a conversation with a stranger. Behavioral scientists have found it makes for a more engaging and enjoyable commute!

Finally, you’ll be glad you stuck with us to learn…

Tricks of the Trade
Ever wonder how to beat the odds at Rock-Paper-Scissors? Learning the predictable patterns and strategies people use can help you gain the competitive edge you’ve always wanted! They are not, as it turns out, random.

Photo: Harper Memorial Library, by Chris Smith/Creative Commons.

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