“It’s an immensely exciting time for people working with video. More and more people creating and using video, more places to share it, more ways to place it in front of people who can make a difference.
“It raises challenges too: saturation of images and compassion-fatigue, finding your place to be heard, and the safety and security and consent issues that arise when many more people are filming each other.
“But overall I think we’re seeing a really powerful moment for individual expression but also collective accountability being supported via image-making.”
So says Sam Gregory programme director of Witness, a human rights organisation which uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. The New York-anchored organisation works around the world to ’empower people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change’.
Sam is a video producer, trainer and human rights advocate who knows and taps into the power of moving images to move people. He was speaking with Indian journalist and cyber activist Frederick Noronha in an interview just published at the Info Activism website.
Sam recalls how he was once making films and also involved in activism, and ‘frustrated at how the two didn’t fit together’.
He adds: “In the traditional TV documentary world, the advocacy purpose of film was under-utilized. The fact that you got 500,000 viewers for a TV broadcast told you nothing about whether that turned into action. So I started looking for ways to really make the video fit as a tool for real advocacy and change-making, and came upon WITNESS.”
Read full interview on InfoActivism website
We at TVE Asia Pacific worked closely with Sam in 2002-2004, when we implemented a collaborative Asian regional project called Truth Talking where Witness was a partner. It was through Witness that I met courageous info activists like Joey R B Lozano.
3 thoughts on ““It’s an immensely exciting time for people working with video!” – Sam Gregory”
What happens when the digitally captured evidence is verified and presented to the world — and nobody cares? We have situations like this all over the world: Tibet, Gaza, Burma. Brutal regimes turn their guns on their own people or neighbouring countries in the full glare of the world. When the world has its eyes wide shut, and the UN is impotent or worse, what use is bearing witness?
That’s a really good question. I think it all depends where we expect action to happen, and also whether its all or nothing. Images from Tibet, Burma and Gaza definitely galvanized public knowledge and support in many countries for action to prevent human rights abuses; but has this public support and pressure turned yet into concrete action by governments? Not to the extent we hope for – but it’s a start. There are clearly examples where images have started movements to end abuses – East Timor, Bosnia etc.
And I also think its really important to remember that many times its not governments who need to change attitudes, it’s our own communities and people close to us – and sharing images and stories with them can make a world of difference.
Above and beyond that it seems to me there’s a moral obligation to bear witness?
Well said, Sam! Its easy to be cynical or question our own ability to change so much thats going wrong. But the world will be a far worse place if not for the few people who stick their necks out, and try to do something even if they have a long struggle ahead of them.
You are absolutely right when you say we have a moral obligation. We cannot just look the other way or walk away from injustice and atrocities happening right before our eyes. Capture them even if we can’t immediately use them. Our day will come.