Big shout out to our colleagues from WITNESS, who just released an important new resource  on using eyewitness videos in human rights reporting and advocacy in an ethical way. I consider this a highly relevant resource for everyone working with citizen media. This posting by Madeleine Bair was originally published by the WITNESS Media Lab.

In June of 2009, the image of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death on the street in Tehran was caught on video and shared on YouTube, news media, and Twitter, became a striking symbol of Iran’s Green Revolution, and an ethical predicament for millions of viewers who never knew her: What did it mean to witness the last moments of this young woman’s life?

Six years later, we are still wrestling with that question and many others surrounding the ethics of sharing online videos of injustice and abuse. The amount of bystander footage shared online has skyrocketed, becoming a critical aspect of news and human rights reporting. And yet it seems like every day we are faced with a new dilemma concerning the ethics of watching and sharing footage that is often intimate, horrific, or decontextualized.

Does sharing videos by extremist organizations aid their goals of provoking fear and glamorizing violence, or is it a necessary part of news gathering? Should eyewitnesses be asked permission before their videos are broadcast by news media, or would that hinder the reporting process? How can investigators and advocates report on abuse caught on camera without violating the privacy or impacting the security of those seen on video?

For newsrooms, crisis responders, and human rights investigators, traditional protocols and guidelines have not kept up with these new challenges. While codes of ethics instruct us to do no harm, there is little by way of guidance to apply that principle when working with videos that we ourselves did not produce—footage filmed by bystanders, activists, victims, survivors, and sometimes perpetrators of abuse. Read full article

Making Secondary Trauma a Primary Issue

By Sam Dubberley – First posted by Eyewitness Media Hub

Eyewitness Media Hub is embarking on a cross-industry study into the impact of traumatic footage — and we need your help

Eyewitness Media Hub, with the support of the Open Society Foundation, is conducting a cross-industry study into the impact of vicarious trauma on journalists, human rights investigators and humanitarian aid workers who frequently search for eyewitness media in their work. Sam Dubberley — who makes up the research team along with Pete Brown — explains why this is so important and what the study aims to achieve.

It was in September 2004 that I had my first experience of what turned out to be vicarious trauma. It was the height of the insurgency in Iraq following the invasion that had toppled Saddam Hussein over a year earlier. I had colleagues in Baghdad. I, on the other hand, was sitting in a newsroom in Geneva. On September 20th, Eugene Armstrong, an American engineer, was beheaded. The main television news agencies discovered and distributed the video showing his murder. For reasons that I do not understand to this day, I was the one who volunteered in my Geneva office to watch it. Bravado? An attempt to prove myself? Career advancement? Aged 27, it was probably a bit of all of those. One thing I know for sure, though, is that whatever compelled me to watch the video of the death of Eugene Armstrong on a rainy, late summer afternoon in Geneva, I wish to this day that I hadn’t. Read full article

How citizen video and free tech tools helped us expose war crimes in Nigeria

Previously published in New African Magazine and International Business Times – Also available in Spanish and French

In March 2014 a grainy cell phone video came across my desk that seemed to show a Nigerian soldier murdering an unarmed man in broad daylight. It took me a day and a half to pinpoint the location of this apparent war crime to a specific street corner in Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno and a city of more than 500,000 people.

Confirming the location of an incident is a crucial step in the authentication process, so finding this fact was highly relevant to reference the footage in a report we published on 31 March 2014, exposing war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Nigerian military and Boko Haram.  Continue reading How citizen video and free tech tools helped us expose war crimes in Nigeria

New Verification Handbook For Investigative Work

Good news for investigators: The European Journalism Center today published a handbook on how to use and verify user-generated content in in-depth investigations. It is a companion handbook to the original Verification Handbook, which focused on breaking news, and includes my chapter on using user-generated content in human rights investigations.

The need for such a resource is enormous. Both journalists and human rights investigators are increasingly confronted with a torrent of citizen media shared through digital social networks in real-time. The risks of overlooking relevant content or getting it outright wrong are very real. However, the benefits of effectively and ethically integrating open source materials into in-depth investigations are huge. Continue reading New Verification Handbook For Investigative Work

Nigeria: Gruesome footage implicates military in war crimes

Featured picture: Image extracted from one of the analyzed videos, showing what appears to be a member of the Nigerian military. The uniform has the words “Borno State Operation Flush” emblazoned. Note: parts of this picture have been blurred due to its graphic nature.

Gruesome video footage, images and testimonies gathered by Amnesty International provide fresh evidence of war crimes, including extrajudicial executions, and other serious human rights violations being carried out in north-eastern Nigeria as the fight by the military against Boko Haram and other armed groups intensifies.

The footage, obtained from numerous sources during a recent trip to Borno state, reveals graphic evidence of multiple war crimes being carried out in Nigeria.
Continue reading Nigeria: Gruesome footage implicates military in war crimes

Turning Citizen Media Into Citizen Evidence: Authentication Techniques For Human Rights Researchers


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