On Sunday, June 19, journalists from independent media outlets and international agencies decided to publish their photos along with the metadata from their images. This action has served to shift official discourse and expose one of the largest repressions of protest in Mexico in recent years.
According to figures from the National Education Coordinator (CNTE), at least 11 people were fatally shot and more than 100 injured in Nochixtlán, located in the southern state of Oaxaca. The clashes occurred between the Teacher’s Movement, which is opposed to the government’s latest educational reforms, and an estimated 800 members of the Federal and State Police, according to Animal Politico.
Since 2013, Mexican teachers have been fighting against education reforms led by President Enrique Peña Nieto. In response, Peña Nieto has decided to impose the reforms by force, claiming his goal is to “raise the quality of education in the country”, without hearing the voices of the main actors, the teachers. The CNTE says the reform is essentially an administrative and labor reform and it does not address problems related to the process of educating students or pedagogy. They maintain that the reforms therefore offer no strategic plans to improve education. They also criticize the plan for being fundamentally undemocratic, having no basis in reality, and that it’s largely improvised and fails to recognize the cultural diversity of the country.
Following the confrontation in Oaxaca on June 19, images began circulating from independent media outlets such as Desde las Nubes and international agencies like AP and EFE. A video recorded by a correspondent for La Jornada was also shared online. The images clearly showed police officers using rifles and firing shots at demonstrators.
In response to the images, the Federal Government issued a statement saying that the officers involved in the operation were unarmed, claiming that the images being circulated were false and did not correspond to the what actually happened.
To verify the authenticity of their images, the journalists and activists began re-sharing their photos, but this time they included the original metadata for each image. The images in the tweet below from the independent media outlet SubVersiones, display the photographs’ metadata in a screenshot, showing the public the date when the images were generated. The AP image also shows the information that was sent through the news agency, including the photographer’s name, date and place the photo was taken.
Later that day, the commissioner of the Federal Police, Enrique Galindo, acknowledged that authorities at the protest were equipped with firearms.
Free media members confirmed that the idea to challenge the official narrative through the integration of metadata emerged, in part, from conversations with other free media allies who participated in a workshop where WITNESS spoke about the importance of metadata.
Resources: What is metadata? How it can protect or expose you and others.
- Metadata means “data about data.”
- Metadata can be created automatically by your device, i.e. your camera or cell phone.
- All your digital files, whether text, images, audio and videos, contain metadata. This could include information such as who created the file, what device was used, and when and where it was created.
- Uploading videos or photos to online platforms like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter can strip the files of important metadata, whereas some sites, like Flickr, enable users to share the metadata alongside their images. For this reason, it is important to keep the unedited original file in a secure location, plus a backup or two.
- Keeping the original file with the metadata intact is also important because helps you provide context, and makes it easier to authenticate and verify the image if necessary.
- However, under certain circumstances, you may need to disseminate the video without this information, in the event that it may put you or others at risk.
- Metadata can also be generated so that it’s included as part of the recording, or it could be added to a register or a database of videos, as mentioned in the following video:
For further guidance, check out Basic Practices: Capturing, Storing and Sharing Video Evidence.
By Indira Cornelio & Laura Salas, Translated from Spanish by Jackie Zammuto