YouTube and WITNESS Use Video to Promote Human Rights

Last week, YouTube partnered with WITNESS, an international group that uses video to promote human rights, to begin a series of blog posts that will demonstrate and explore how film has become an integral facet of the worldwide human rights initiative.

Last week Saturday’s blog post kicked off the start of the series, and featured the full-length version of “For Neda,” a documentary on citizen reporting. The title of the documentary is a reference to Neda Agha Soltan, the young Iranian woman whose death by a sniper during the 2009 Iranian election protests was captured on camera and quickly distributed across the internet.

With WITNESS’ mission of “…using video to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations,” the partnership with YouTube is more than fitting. Steve Grove, YouTube’s head of News & Politics, has been tweeting lately about human rights videos, and authored the series’ first blog post with WITNESS’ Sameer Padania.

As a fourth-year journalism student, I am always intrigued by creative examples of how people – both amateur reporters and those who are professionally trained – use multimedia tools to share a message with the rest of the world. With so many options available – blogs, videos, social networking sites, internet radio – it’s exciting to see how people around the globe are using the tools of today to communicate what matters to them.

One particular group that has been successful in reaching massive audiences through viral internet campaigns is Brave New Films. I was first introduced to Brave New Films by a college friend who is interning at their Los Angeles headquarters this summer. After doing some Googling, it quickly became apparent that I was the one out of the trend, as millions of Americans have been tuning into the politically and socially progressive videos since the group’s launch in 2007.

The videos cover everything from health care reform and the Afghanistan war, to the Starbucks Corporation and Guantanamo Bay. What I think makes Brave New Films’ online campaigns so successful is the brevity and frequency of the videos. Appropriate for modern news consumers, new clips are uploaded often, and most videos are under three minutes – just short enough to hold a viewer’s attention.

Aware of the significant role that the arts can play in raising support for an issue, the Opportunity Agenda is working on an Immigration Arts + Culture initiative. Through discussions, forums, and other efforts, the Opportunity Agenda is collaborating with America’s creative communities to see how the arts can be used to promote the inclusion, integration, and human rights of immigrants in the United States.

Most recently, the Opportunity Agenda held two speaker panels to explore the role that the arts can play in addressing immigration. The first event, Immigration: Arts, Culture & Media 2010, was in New York City, and featured an eight-person panel where speakers ranged from Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, to filmmaker Mira Nair, who directed “The Namesake” and “Monsoon Wedding.”

In May, the Opportunity Agenda traveled to Los Angeles for Immigrants in America, A Hollywood Perspective, where a separate panel was held to discuss the challenges in telling accurate, compelling immigrant stories in movies and television. To share their experiences on this issue, the panel was packed with professionals from the entertainment industry. Speakers included Bruce Evans, senior vice president of drama programming for NBC, Bee Vang, actor from “Gran Torino,” and screenwriter and director, Leon Ichasa.

To learn more about the Opportunity Agenda’s Immigration Arts + Culture initiative, check out our Initiatives page.

Tags: human rights, art, advocacy, witness, Opportunity, Youtube (all tags)

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