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13 juillet 2007

Video advocacy for all

Bringing human rights into focus

The cellphone camera wasn't invented for activists, but new media is increasingly responsible for capturing human rights abuses and creating a more populist activism the world over.

From July 15 to 27 at Concordia University, a group of 30 human rights activists from around the globe will attend a special program, the Video Advocacy Institute (VAI), organized by Witness, a human rights organization founded by musician and activist Peter Gabriel. For the past 15 years, Witness has donated video equipment and trained human rights defenders to use video and new media for advocacy and social change in their communities.

Each activist will arrive at the training session with a particular project, and they'll learn video basics and various strategies for advocacy and outreach, says Sam Gregory, Witness's program manager for strategic networks.

"Often video can fit along with other human rights work. It can increase community participation and engagement and be used alongside other advocacy work and lobbying. Video images of a massacre, for example, can't be denied by officials... video can force governments to put pressure on UN agencies or bring testimony of actual people to light," says Gregory.

Hseng Noung's campaign, for example, focuses on the Burmese military's use of rape as a weapon of war. She hopes to bring the testimony of women who have suffered sexual violence out of the country. Another campaign tackles forced displacement in Cambodia by putting cellphone cameras in the hands of villagers whose land is being illegally seized.

While VAI isn't open to the public, a special reception and panel called "Media, Human Rights and Action" will take place July 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the NFB CineRobotheque (1564 St-Denis). It features experienced advocates who use new media for social change. Also, be sure to look out for The Hub (, a Witness-inspired online destination, launching this fall, where concerned citizens, activists, researchers and journalists can upload human rights-related media from handheld devices or personal computers, join communities and reveal human rights abuses. For more info,

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