Part of my work at WITNESS is to edit our blog. As such, I get a pretty great overview of what we’re publishing and why. I wanted to share some highlights from 2014, and what we’ll be doing more (and in some cases, less) of in 2015. For example, some of our experiments like our Music Monday playlists will be returning. Others, such as our “what we’re reading” weekly digest, probably won’t.
In fact, by Spring 2015 we plan a big update of the blog, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, we hope you’ll let us know what you liked, what you didn’t. What would you like to see more or less of? Share with us in the comments below. And if you’d like to write for us, send us a pitch via the contact form on this page.
The Human Rights Channel
We curated over 800 citizen videos documenting human rights issues and abuse this year on the Human Rights Channel. Madeleine Bair, our curator, and her team also published weekly articles on the blog sometimes highlighting multiple videos and sometimes delving into one video or incident.
A Year of Sharing Resources
Jackie Zammuto, our Engagement Coordinator, and other colleagues reached out to activists and citizen witnesses in many of the locations listed above to share resources for how to film more safely and effectively such as our 10 Tips for Filming Protests, Demonstrations and Police Conduct.
There were also many opportunities to re-share our guide Conducting Safe, Effective and Ethical Interviews With Survivors of Sexual And Gender-Based Violence (now available in Arabic and Spanish among other languages).
Stories about sexual violence made headlines from locations as varied as Syria, the United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo. And a global convening on ending gender-based violence in conflict was held in London.
We gave special attention to the challenges faced by journalists covering this important issue, and again turned our attention to journalists during the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence.
Pushing Video to Do More
At WITNESS we’re always concerned about how we can push video to be the most safe, ethical, effective, and accessible tool for justice. And this year we launched several series devoted to that larger goal.
Our Senior Archivist Yvonne Ng and team followed up our popular Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video with a new series of how-to videos and blog posts, aptly titled “What Activists need to Know About Video Archiving and Preservation.” The entire series can be seen here.
Our Systems Change Coordinator Morgan Hargrave started a Tech Digest series that follows tech news and developments as they relate to human rights video and its efficacy. This is an ongoing, monthly series.
Program Director Sam Gregory – wrote about a “proof mode” that could enhance the trustworthiness of digital media and how WITNESS is helping citizen witnesses make more of an impact with their video.
And Kelly Matheson, our Senior Program Manager and an attorney, officially launched our ongoing series and focus on video as evidence. The blog series is part of a larger project that will create a field guide to be published later in 2015. The entire video as evidence project “strives to ensure that citizen video can be better captured, organized, verified and shared to ensure that human rights investigators, analysts and attorneys can rely on the video in their work to secure accountability in the halls of justice.”
Interviews with Video For Changers
We spoke to a range of filmmakers, journalists and storytellers who are using video as a tool to raise awareness, start conversations, and advocate for human rights worldwide. Some of these conversations featured: Jehane Noujaim, director of the documentary The Square; the Unlock Iran project; our own Raja Althaibani about trends in using video for change in the Middle East and North Africa; Syrian and Venezuelan activists exchanged field notes; Lindsie Bear and the Virtual Dinner Guest Project; the Draw the Line / Hasta Aqui No Más campaign in Canada; students at the University of Kansas combatting sexual violence; activists in South Africa who face challenges in documenting gender-based violence; a community facing hate crimes in Wisconsin; Nancy Schwartzman on using mobile apps and video to prevent sexual violence; journalist Maziar Bahari on his imprisonment and torture in Iran now a feature film; and our series of the 2014 BritDocs Impact Award winners.
Social Media and Other How-Tos
Most of these were facilitated by our Social Media Coordinator Marianna Moneymaker. They included an intro to Instagram for nonprofit organizations; how to back up mobile video while on-the-go, for instance at a protest (this one was by Video Technology Specialist, Martin Tzanev); how to produce a great Hangout On Air conversation; and a list of free or low-cost video archiving resources for activists (drawn from an #AskMeAnything chat we hosted with our archivist Yvonne).
By the Numbers
Some of our most popular blog posts in terms of traffic were about: human rights issues in Russia in the lead up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, police occupied favelas in Rio de Janeiro, sexual assault caught on video and privacy in Egypt, forced evictions in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup, how to verify citizen video from Syria, and WITNESS resources for how to film police conduct.
We celebrated our 10th annual Focus for Change benefit: and we did so with by featuring some of our most generous and creative collaborators and performers. Articles highlighted our incomparable design team at Pentagram led by Harry Pearce who this year also directed the creation of a street art mural in London (which is pictured in the featured image at the top of this post), photographer Andy Lin, and musical performers and supporters from 2014 and previous years including Hassan Hakmoun, Iron and Wine, and Salman Ahmad.
Speaking of numbers, we’re about to hit a milestone in numbers of articles written on our blog. We’ll be celebrating that and a lot more new content to come in 2015. Happy New Year and happy reading!