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Video: Witness - Video as a Lens on the World

WITNESS is a human rights organization rooted in the principle that a picture is worth a 1,000 words. By partnering with local organizations around the globe, WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video as a tool to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations. Since its founding in 1992 by musician and advocate Peter Gabriel, WITNESS has partnered with more than 200 human rights groups in 50 countries, bringing often untold stories and unheard voices to the attention of key decision makers, the media, and general public to create lasting change.

As a WITNESS online activist, you can view video documentation of human rights violations in countries like Burma, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, for example, and sign online petitions to end those practices...

Made you look

WITNESS is a human rights program that attracts the eyes of the world and inspires those who see - to act.

WITNESS strengthens local activists by giving them video cameras and training in production and advocacy.

WITNESS unleashes an arsenal of computers, imaging and editing software, satellite phones and email in the struggle for justice.

A picture is worth a thousand words

In 1991, a bystander with a video camera captured the now infamous Rodney King beating in Los Angeles. The videotape shocked millions and showed that human rights abuses are worse when violators aren't afraid of detection.

The lasting impression of the Rodney King beating and the riots that ensued showed the emotional power of the visual: the videotaped images gave the incident impact and immediacy that words could not.

Today, WITNESS has worked with over 150 WITNESS partner groups from 50 countries to use video to overcome political, economic, and physical barriers, and to expose human rights abuses to the world via television, grassroots advocacy, and internet broadcasting.

Made you think

WITNESS partner groups combat injustice across the globe on a wide range of issues from the atrocities of the former Yugoslavia and Guatemala, to the abuse of women and girls in Sierra Leone, to sweatshops in the U.S., to the plight of people displaced inside Burma.

WITNESS partner groups reveal human rights violations that go unnoticed and unreported -- to their governments and communities, to international tribunals and UN committees, to TV viewers worldwide via outlets like the BBC, CNN, CBS, ABC, PBS, Canal +, Telemundo, and Worldlink Satellite Television, and to visitors of this website, which now receives over 1.5 million hits each month.

WITNESS partners often operate in societies without basic human rights protections, or where poverty, starvation and lack of education create situations where the powerful exploit the weak. Sometimes they put their lives at risk so that the truth can be told.

In these conditions, local human rights defenders need outside support.

Made you act

WITNESS has two central aims:

1.) To strengthen grassroots advocacy by making video and technology tools available to human rights defenders so they can fight for human rights;

2.) To mobilize public concern and activism so that human rights issues move to the center of political debate.

Seeing is believing

WITNESS videos have been used:

  • as evidence in legal proceedings
  • to counter-balance the official reports governments make to the UN on their human rights records
  • for grassroots education
  • in news broadcasts; and
  • for web broadcasting via the internet

Mission Statement
WITNESS advances human rights advocacy through the use of video and communications technology. In partnership with more than 150 non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders in 50 countries, WITNESS strengthens grassroots movements for change by providing video technology and assisting its partners to use video as evidence before courts and the United Nations, as a tool for public education, and as a deterrent to further abuse. WITNESS also gives local groups a global voice by distributing their video to the media and on the Internet, and by helping to educate and activate an international audience around their causes.

WITNESS was founded in 1992 by Peter Gabriel, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and the Reebok Foundation. WITNESS is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization supported through a combination of foundation grants, private donations, and pro bono goods and services. We need your support!


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