It’s not everyday that we can see an academic and a security expert turned whistleblower talk whilst being completely able to understand and complement each another. This is why the events that unfolded during Rightscon 2016 were interesting.
The academic, Ronald J. Deibert, Professor of Political Science and Director of The Citizen Lab, opened the discussion with several topics that have been much explored before, one of them being the special place and relationship, and more specifically the responsibility, of academia on the issue of public security versus the state. The security expert, Edward Snowden, who is now residing in Moscow, Russia, talked to the hundreds of participants present at the discussion with great enthusiasm, as always. He elaborated upon the meaning of current security threats and the challenges they pose to culture and education.
In Snowden’s opinion, technology can protect freedom but it can also become a threat to humanity. He said that right now, even though a great revelation regarding the need for online security has occurred in Europe, little has been done to help people in China or North Korea, where the public lives in almost total isolation.
Both speakers agreed that we need to develop a multi-perspective approach to strengthen civil society’s defense against intrusion from state and non-state intelligence bodies. Professor Ronald specifically mentioned how the role to develop such an approach can fall upon the people who are active in universities around the globe. They can offer help by conducting research based on their own institutions, in order for the movement to benefit from findings based on data and proven methodology. Furthermore, these kind of activities will not only inspire technicians but also law students and their respective departments.
Ronald stated that funds for doing corporate research are much greater compared to the funds going to universities, and with big money, the corporate world can comparatively do a lot more things. But still there's a need and a challenge for academia to continue their research in campuses he said, pointing out that most of the popular software and internet infrastructure we are using today sprang from campuses throughout the Western hemisphere, largely due to the freedom and space provided by academic culture. He also suggested using fellowship programs to attract new students to study this field.
Ronald believes that this kind of academia-inspired movement can be molded to create a civil society intelligence that can counter state intelligence. The movement's task is to gather data and find evidence that will work against state intelligence and private security companies, especially to help prove how certain state intelligence activities conflict with fundamental human rights.
Related to this, Snowden added that such a movement will need to work alongside journalists, especially now since they have been heavily targeted by the state. On the other side, journalists can become spokespersons of the movement, getting the word out to the public.
Snowden showed a trend of how the state is becoming more and more powerful. Practices like inserting spyware or malware concealed within an update and/or software upgrade becoming more common. Privacy rights are shun everyday all over the world. This, in turn, creates cultural and academic questions about why this is happening, which the younger generation will especially need to be confronted by.
For Snowden, it's hard to explain why the world is seemingly becoming stricter with ever increasing restrictions to freedom. A culture of 24-hour surveillance has become normalized, so be careful. Remember to look over your shoulder.
On 24 May 2016, Andrew Lowenthal, Director of EngageMedia, and myself, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, attended the 4th installment of Good Pitch Europe in Stockholm, Sweden. The event brought together 7 feature-length films, over 170 organizations and 259 participants.
Good Pitch is different to standard pitching forums where filmmakers ask for financial support and look for distribution avenues. It instead seeks to forge partnerships between filmmakers and a wide range of stakeholders, including NGOS, philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, corporate partners, broadcasters, educators and policy-makers, creating coalitions and campaigns around environmental and social issues, which are good for the partners, good for the films and good for society.
This was my first Good Pitch experience, which I’ve heard so much about over recent years through the global Video for Change community and through some of the acclaimed films it has supported, such as Citizen Four, No Fire Zone and The Look of Silence.
As Good Pitch2 is being hosted for the first time in Southeast Asia next year by Indonesian organization In-Docs, and which EngageMedia is an outreach partner of, it was especially useful for me to learn from the organizers and participants, and witness the process first-hand. After groups of production teams had presented their projects, which were mostly 80% completed, foundations, media outlets, organizations and even companies such as Google and Vine pledged financial and distribution support. It would be amazing to see how we could get similar support for critical films from the region.
However, the one-day event itself is just a fraction of what goes into the work for Good Pitch. Leading up to Jakarta in May 2017, five films will be selected to receive mentorship such as impact and pitching workshops, outreach support which includes connecting the films to hundreds of potential allies that can help them reach wider (or more precise) audiences and ultimately aiding them to produce more real and lasting impact. And we’re looking very forward to being a part of making all that happen!
Earlier this year, a group of protesters rode from Jakarta to Bali on bicycles as an effort to raise awareness of an environmentally damaging reclamation plan. This is just one action from the protest campaign that's been held for the past two years, that has been doing everything in its power to ensure that Benoa Bay in Bali, Indonesia, does not become a giant tourist playground.
Before that event, thousands of people including activists, NGOs, artists, students, expats, tourists, local communities, celebrities and Indonesians living abroad gathered in front of the Bali Governor’s office demonstrating against the plan. These are both the kind of mass actions being carried out by the growing For Bali (or #FORBALI) movement.
For Bali itself is a civil community which consists of students, NGOs activists, artists, youth, musicians, academics, environmental consultants and other individuals who believe that the Tanjong Benoa reclamation plan is destructive towards nature.
Alongside demonstrations, the campaign also garners people’s participation through popular media such as posters, documentary films, comics and it even launched a song titled, 'Bali Tolak Reklamasi', composed by well-known Indonesian musicians Superman Is Dead, The Bullhead, Nymphea, Gold Voice and Nosstress.
The issue first came to light in December 2012 when the Governor of Bali, Made Mangku, secretly signed a legal letter to give permission to PT. Tirta Wahana Bali International to reclaim Benoa Bay, which is in the Southern part of Bali and along the Indian Ocean. The corporation aims to build a huge tourist district and a theme park similar to Disneyland, together with an international hospital, college, marina, and retail district, each complete with their own personal docks and yachts, hotels, apartments and golf courses.
Many studies have stated that the corporation should not conduct the reclamation as it will cause several issues such as flooding, increased risk of drowning, social and cultural disorder, and serious harm to biodiversity in sea and on land.
Benoa Bay is also a sacred area because of the presence of 60 natural sites, including 19 estuaries and 17 small islands that emerge during the low tide. The plan to "develop" 700 hectares of the bay will damage all of these sacred sites.
The For Bali movement is growing throughout the world, with artists, musicians, activists and filmmakers protesting on the streets to pressure the Indonesian government to stop the reclamation.
Conceptualized by BRITDOC and Sundance Documentary Institute, Good Pitch is not just an ordinary pitching forum where filmmakers ask for financial support and search for distribution avenues. Good Pitch forges powerful partnerships between multi-disciplinary stakeholders – NGOs, philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, corporate / brand partners, broadcasters, educators, policy makers, and any changemakers who can utilize great documentary films to make their intended impact in the society.
Since the first international event in 2009, Good Pitch has spread around the world in satellite forums called Good Pitch² (Good Pitch Squared). Good Pitch² Southeast Asia will be held in Jakarta in May 2017. The call for documentary projects will open in March 2016.
Five films will be selected to receive various mentorship and support, including an IMPACT workshop, outreach support, pitching workshop, and an opportunity to pitch the project in front of powerful potential alliances that can help the documentaries reach an impact.
For more information on Good Pitch² Southeast Asia, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
In partnership with the U.S. Embassy and the Innovation Lab: Phanteeyar, this Tech Camp aimed to promote inclusiveness in Myanmar by creating technology strategies for a new Myanmar. Among the many topics that were discussed were data collection, citizen journalism, online/offline community organizing, digital privacy, data visualization, tools for emergency and data mapping.
International trainers from BBC, RFA, the Carter Centre, Change.org, Open Development Initiative, IRI and ICT4Peace showcased various tech solutions and strategies that could potentially aid the growing democracy. Local trainers like myself and others from different organizations also attended and trained at the camp.
Esra Dogrmaci from the BBC and I specifically trained on 'Social Video and Podcast Production’, where we introduced a selection of mobile video editing apps for iOS and Android. The focus of our session was on how to produce short and effective campaign videos for access on slow internet connections. We also spoke on tactics for reaching new audiences via social media, specifically for mobile video
Esra suggested using text-based video tools because they don’t require getting a good voiceover or presenter. The strength of making text-based video is that everyone can easily understand concepts and ideas through a combination of text and photographs.
Our participants had a lot of fun producing content using the apps and techniques we recommended, and were really excited to finish their projects within the given time frame. The four groups made up of our participants worked on themes such as drug abuse, child rights and caring for the elderly.
One participant from the Pat Jasan organization, which is conducting an anti-drug campaign in the Kachin area, shared that they’d like to work on a documentary on drug abuse because it’s a serious problem there. He felt that the session was very valuable for him, adding that although he can only produce short mobile videos now, he hopes that he’ll be able to produce documentary films with professional editing software.
Tech Camp Myanmar was a great platform to bring innovative groups of people together, engage them in meaningful training, and kick-start a conversation on the importance of digital communication strategies. Welcome to the New Myanmar!
Based on MCMAHT’s reports, the area is home to many who become migrant workers in neighborhood countries like Thailand and Malaysia. We found it fitting then, to screen films from Crossroads, our collection of advocacy videos on migrant workers, refugees, and stateless people in Malaysia.
Beginning our Journey
At 10am on a Monday morning, I, Kyalyi from EngageMedia, and MCMAHT volunteers departed from Yangon by bus and we arrived at the town of Zeekone at about 4pm. Kwin Sann village is located in the vicinity of Zeekone, but we had to travel for two hours on motorcycles to get there. We arrived safely at Kwin Sann at 6pm.
Most of people in the village are of Catholic faith, Karen ethnicity and speak the Karen language. Thankfully for me, one of the characters from a film of mine is a Karen girl, so I was familiar enough with their language.
On Tuesday, I visited the village leader’s home to get permission to screen our films there. I was delightfully surprised that they chose to screen the films in the area where they congregate to pray, called “a Holy Place for Mary”.
The area faces a sever lack of electricity and the people there can only get power from small solar generators. We faced an issue in making our projector work and finally we had to think of an alternative. Some of the villagers have small TVs with 14-inch screens, but I decided that it would be better to screen the films from my own laptop which has a screen of almost 16 inches.
I’ll never forget how much I worried about the battery life of my laptop for the screening the next day. But by a stroke of luck, using one of the small solar generators somehow worked out.
The Screening Day
At 5pm on Wednesday, after candlelight prayers, the MCMAHT volunteers and I started began the much-anticipated screening. We opened with the filmed, ‘In Search of Shelter’, a film about Myanmar refugees and migrant workers in Malaysia. In this video, a Karen man talks about the issues facing migrant workers in hopes that villagers who often “export” such workers would better understand them. We also showed the films, ‘Here to Help’, ‘Polis Pao’, ‘Siti Got Cheated’, ‘Trap’ and ‘Forsaken’.
The audience, which consisted of men and women aged 10–74, engaged in a lively post-screening discussion and answered a questionnaire on the issues raised in the films. A resource person from MCMAHT spoke in further detail with the villagers about official documents and how individuals looking to become migrant workers can better protect themselves.
One of the villagers who came back from Malaysia said that he is really afraid to ever go to Malaysia again because of the police there. He shared that was always staying and hiding in the darkest corners of the factory in which he worked for only three months before returning to Myanmar.
His account served as a stark reminder of the realities faced by migrant workers throughout the region, and we were glad that the screening of films from Crossroads helped to spark such dialogues in remote locations where even watching television is considered a luxury.
When a group of us “organizational security practitioners”* gathered in Prague this February, we were cautiously optimistic about what we could achieve.
Many security experts and practitioners have been gaining invaluable experience while working to strengthen human right defenders and civil society organisations' awareness, ability and confidence in thwarting security threats while continuing on their striving for positive change. Commonly referred to as "organizational security", this engagement comprises a complex, evolving and multifaceted process which has been fraught with challenges.
So, earlier this month, 15 such practitioners convened in Prague to share our experiences, resources and approaches, and to address our collective challenges by coalescing our understanding of what organisational security is, and how we, a fledgling community of trainers and organisational security practitioners, can grow and hone our practice.
The groups that participated were:
- the engine room
- Association for Progressive Communications
- The ISC Project
- Access Now
- Digital Society of Zimbabwe
- Front Line Defenders
- HIVOS-DIF / pantraining
More specifically, we put thought and effort into understanding and answering some questions:
- What do we mean by organizational security? what are its reaches and boundaries?
- What are the components (or "stages") of a successful organizational security process? How are they interrelated?
- What are the barriers and the enablers towards success for the organizations? for us, the practitioners?
- What are some of the resources already in place? what more is needed?
- How can we benefit from each others' experiences? How can we better leverage our collective expertise?
The result was an inspiring start, which we like to share and expand.
We want Prague to be the beginning. We were very encouraged and buoyed by the depth and breadth of the collective knowledge to be tapped, and resolved to use the Prague gathering as a launching pad towards a larger knowledge space and a community of practice.
If you are attending the Internet Freedom Festival [https://internetfreedomfestival.org/], we invite you to join us to discuss what we started in Prague, hear our outline of how to grow as an independent, open, and collaborative community; and if you are interested, to join efforts. You'll find us at the organizational security session, currently scheduled for Friday, March 4. We want to hear from you about the challenges you face implementing organizational security support and your solutions; about your own organizational security systems and practices; and how you could benefit and contribute as an active member of this growing community.
Today, video has quite possibly become the strongest conveyor of stories. Considering the power of storytelling, its potential to leave you hanging by the edge of your seat, change minds and force audiences to see things differently, it is no wonder video is so popular within human rights work. Nonetheless many organizations have a rather simplistic view, or approach, on using of video. It’s often something like: go to a site of injustice and record the activities and people there. Let people tell their stories, illustrating the injustice taking place. Take the recorded footage home, edit it and post the results online. The video(s) then become part of an already existing, or perhaps newly created advocacy campaign hoping to influence both public and policy makers. Sound familiar? Parts of it perhaps?
Through a real-life story I would like to illustrate a different way in which video and the power of storytelling can be used. In 2011 Asrida Elisabeth, a young Indonesian woman originally from Flores, an island in the eastern parts of Indonesia, joined an activist pastor in Papua, a huge island at the most eastern end of Indonesia. For decades the Papuan people live in oppression. As a primitive society living on a land incredibly rich in natural resources they have become an easy target for big mining companies, whom facilitated by the Indonesian government simply take, take and take. Everyone profits from Papua except for Papuans, as a Guardian journalist put it.
In her activist work, trying to educate and empower the Papuan people, Asrida noticed that using video was very effective. People would gather easily to watch and audio-visual media resonated strongly, provoking discussions on issues addressed in the videos. As most of the videos used are produced outside of Papua, often even outside Indonesia, Asrida wondered: Wouldn’t it be great if we could make our own videos and show them here?
EngageMedia, a non-profit working with video in South-East Asia, was active in the region through a project called Papuan Voices. Besides producing videos Papuan Voices has a strong empowerment aspect. Asrida got involved and learned a thing or two about filming through workshops and engaging with the local Papuan Voices team. Later on she joined with filming and also managed to produce two of her own videos independently.
When an opportunity presented itself through Project Change to get funding for a video on women living in marginal communities, Asrida grabbed it. By now she knew how to film plus she had a network and access to a region in Papua where she had been actively working for quite some time. The idea for the documentary was simple: follow one mother (Mama) in her struggle to survive in her own land (Tanah). The resulting documentary film, Tanah Mama (2015), was a big success. It opened many Indonesian viewers’ eyes about the oppression of the Papuan people. It is still screened in an effort to empower Papuan communities, providing exactly the type of locally produced videos Asrida had wished for back in 2011. On top of it all, Tanah Mama won the prestigious best documentary film award at the December 2015 Yogyakarta Documentary Film Festival.
It’s not so much the winning of this award that illustrates my point, although I hope it opens up new opportunities for Asrida. It is the way video was used within Papuan Voices that’s most interesting. While it produced someamazing videos, Papuan Voices’ greatest impact is achieved during the process and in the way the project was set up. From the onset the goal was to provide Papuans with the means to tell their stories.
Human rights activists or organizations will achieve greater impact if they can go beyond letting people tell their own stories and move towards actually enabling people to tell their own stories. A much more long-term and process orientated approach, acknowledging not all outputs can be predicted from the start. Video projects then are initiated by listening and engaging and aim to let go as much and as soon as capacities and circumstances allow. Thereby opening up a space where video making becomes a collective creation and learning process, filled with creativity. Only then will more Asrida’s be given the opportunity to surface and address the world in more meaningful and impactful ways than any human rights organization can. Their job is “simply” to enable the impact to happen and capture it in order to inspire.
Join New Tactics in Human Rights and EngageMedia for a conversation on Video for Change & Impact from February 22-26, 2016.
The BarCamps in Yangon have been huge successes, seeing thousands of participants every year. And this year, I took part in it as a speaker and participant.
On the first day, people came as early as 8am (an hour before the event started) to start sharing and learning from each other by embracing the freedom of knowledge. There were over 60 “colorful” topics at put up on the speaker board such as Start-Ups, Big Data, Web Development and even Magic! For the eager participants, it was a mind-boggling experience, as many of the sessions were happening at the same time.
The topic I offered was 'How to make films on mobile devices', which is targeted for citizen journalists and youth who are interested in producing video content. My sessions on this topic are typically 45 minutes long, where I actively share information and experiences, screening some very short films, teaching practical skills and demonstrating the use of mobile video apps.
To fit the BarCamp model, I had to make the session shorter. I started by welcoming everyone to the room as a “creative space” and went through tips on mobile video making. There are two very useful apps I introduced, CameraV & Storymaker.
Several participants wanted to learn more about how to stabilize cameras and how to script/storyboard your mobile videos quickly. They were also themselves offering tips, opinions on the topic, and proposed an idea to start a mobile video filmmaking industry in Myanmar.
One keen participant said that, “We’d like to produce good mobile videos but we don’t know how to produce them step by step”. Her suggestion was that mobile videographers like myself need to share our skills on social media platforms. I hope that I can share my mobile video production tutorials in Burmese online in the near future.
On the second day, I distributed Burmese-subtitled DVDs of EngageMedia‘s Crossroads and Papuan Voices advocacy video collections. One of the campers said, “I never thought I’d get these kinds of gifts at Barcamp. It’s really difficult to get documentary films from outside Myanmar with Burmese subtitles”.
I also spent some time participating as a Camper in other sessions, such as a discussion that was held on the Womens Rights app market.
At the closing ceremony, the organizers and I discussed how to share our mobile video making tips in more detail at next camp, where we decided that I should run an even longer session and hopefully collaborate with other trainers as well.
Yangon BarCamp was filled with people from so many different backgrounds – the independent movers and shakers, the geeks, the youth and more. It was a great place to develop new relationships and have fun while learning. Congratulations to the Colorful BarCamp!
In the bustling city of Yangon, it’s not uncommon to see kids sniffing glue in dark street corners. Most people have gotten used to this sight. The many children make money from selling goods such as flowers, helping on construction sites and in cafés, but often from prostitution and criminal activity such as break-ins as well.
Most of them live in constant insecurity. They are scorned by society, cast out and have no chance at having a normal childhood. Some were sent out to work because their parents could not afford to send them to school, while others are refugees in the conflict zones across Myanmar.
If Street Children's Day is an opportunity to send a message to and request action from all the governments of the world, then the new government of Myanmar, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy, have to show a strong commitment to ensuring the rights of children.
We hope that the following videos help you to understand the plight of street children in the country, and share them to help raise awareness on this tragic, unresolved issue.
The Kids Who Sniff Glue
Growing up on the streets of Mandalay is tough. Many children sniff glue as a means of escapism and to forget their hunger. With no one around to help them, they are vulnerable to abuse and further decline into harder drugs.
I Wanna Go to School
Filmmaker Nyan Kyal Sal told the story of a brother and sister who’ve always dreamed of going to school. Together, they try to escape from obstacles such as gender inequality, poverty, child abuse, forced labour and human trafficking that prevent them from having access to education.
This film was an awarded animation film at the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Myanmar in 2015.
Giving Their Lives Back
“I was 16 years old and always wanted to be a driver. I was approached by a guy who offered me a job as a driver, so I went with him. He then took me to the army and I had to stay for two years.”
For over a decade, children in Myanmar have been recruited to participate in violent, armed conflicts between the state and numerous militarized ethnic groups. Community organizers are working hard to return child soldiers to their families and end this profound abuse of children’s rights.
Below are some organizations working to help street children in Myanmar, which you can volunteer with or donate to.