EngageMedia Blog

Understanding Myanmar’s Political Climate with Kamayut Media

by Kyalyi April 27, 2015

In Myanmar’s media landscape, most would observe that the reports by independent media there are focused on human rights issues. And in that regard, Kamayut Media, the country’s first private online TV organisation, delivers up-to-date.

Founded in 2012, Kamayut covers everything from political, business, social and entertainment news but continues to address the question, "What is the meaning of Human Rights in Myanmar?". Below we feature their coverage of three recent critical events.

Demands to Release Letpadaw Protesters

On 27 March 2015, a group of 100 students rallied in downtown Yangon, demanding the release of students and their supporters who were detained earlier that month after protesting a new education bill they say stifles academic freedom.

The police crackdown in Letpadan on 10 March saw the arrest of a total of 127 students, supporters and journalists. As of 7 April, 69 of them are attending their second hearing in court.

Journalists Boycott Yangon International Press Congress

Several Burmese media organisations boycotted the 65th World Congress of the International Press Institute, which was held in Yangon for the first time from 27 to 29 March 2015.

U Soe Myint, the organiser of the congress and Chief Editor of Mizzima said of the incident, “It is their right to hold a boycott, but this is not a government organised congress. Among the panelists there are government officers and National League for Democracy members. There will also be discussions between the authorities and the media.”

He added that the Congress will discuss topics of importance to the media such as press freedom and the role of media in elections.

However, as journalists have continually been beaten and unfairly imprisoned by the authorities, and because of the attendance of the Information Minister, the Myanmar Journalist’s Network urged local journalists to boycott the event.

Monk Rejects Preaching Ban

Shwe Nya War Sayadaw, an outspoken monk who has challenged the Buddhist establishment has stated that he intends to keep on preaching if called upon by the people, in defiance of a ban imposed by his government-appointed seniors.

The popular 50-year-old monk called a press conference in Hmawbi township to declare that he would defend his right under the constitution to speak freely without causing any damage to religion.

More videos from Kamayut Media are available on their video page. And if you're interested to learn more about contemporary Myanmar, its filmmakers, and journalists, look out for updates on our Southeast Asia Video Camp happening in Yangon in June 2015.

A Weekend of Crossroads Screenings with the Nepali Community in Malaysia

by EM News April 15, 2015

Crossroads Nepali 1

Over a weekend, our partners KOMAS held two screenings of ‘Here to Help’, one of the advocacy videos from our Crossroads collection on migrant rights in Malaysia. The film tells the story of a young Nepali man who gets his hand cut at the factory he works at, and how he struggles while seeking compensation.

Crossroads Nepali 2

The screening on the 5th of April was held in conjunction with the Nepalese Poeple's Progressive Forum which was attended by over 200 Nepali workers. It was also attended by the Nepali ambassador to Malaysia as well as the former Deputy Minister of Nepal.

The film was shown in between several speakers, who referred to its content during their presentations.

Crossroads Nepali 3

After the event on Saturday, we were contacted to have another screening the following day at an impromptu gathering at a Nepali restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

Fajar from Tenaganita, an NGO working for the rights of migrants in Malaysia, conducted a discussion on the effective handling of medical cases with the audience of about 20 workers, before they continued with a screening of another film produced in Nepal.

A Crossroads Screening at Sungei Lalang Sawmill

by EM News April 14, 2015

Crossroads Semenyih 1

In March 2015, the Crossroads outreach team, which includes our partners KOMAS and Tenaganita, held a community film screening at the Sungei Lalang Sawmill in Semenyih, Selangor, Malaysia.

Five films from the collection were screened to 35 migrant workers from Flores, Indonesia, who were engaged in a lively discussion afterwards.

There were questions from the workers on whether employers could be requested to compensate workers if they go to a private hospital in order to get speedy treatment for more serious injuries. Sometimes, employers tend to delay or not give notice on health treatment to the authorities at all, making compensation impossible to process. The workers revealed that they usually try to look for medical treatment and recovery on their own expenses.

Crossroads Semenyih 2

According to Fajar from Tenaganita, employers are liable to pay the expenses of medical treatment sustained at work but it is important that workers keep all documentation such as hospital bills and have proof of their employment.

He elaborated that in some cases, third-party involvement could be of help to solve cases, such as Tenaganita itself, and the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), both of which work to protect the rights of migrant workers. These organisations could put pressure to start investigations on cases, something most employers would rather avoid.

However, it was noted that most workers at the screening had no idea of what the MTUC is and that they could register as members. Fajar recommended that they do so to protect themselves.

The workers also expressed some dissatisfaction with the Indonesian embassy, which they felt is not pro-active enough or appearing to be concerned in helping and supporting their citizens working in Malaysia.

Crossroads Semenyih 2

The session ended with the workers penning down their messages and wishes to the Malaysian government on a blackboard. Photographs of their messages will be part of a Crossroads awareness campaign that is set to be launched in April 2015.

RightsCon Southeast Asia: Impacts and Next Steps

by Andrew May 25, 2015
A wrap-up of RightsCon 2015, the global internet rights summit we co-hosted for the first time in Southeast Asia.

Here's sending out a big thanks to the 650 people who attended RightsCon Southeast Asia; from the high caliber participants and speakers, to the stellar programming and advisory committees, to the wide array of sponsors. It was an energizing display of the diversity of the global digital rights community that is fighting for a open and secure internet, and we hope an event that has strengthened that movement both regionally and internationally.


RightsCon provided the opportunity to connect with peers, advance conversations and strategic partnerships, and plan for the many challenges ahead. Access and EngageMedia are mapping the event outcomes, which we’ll release in the next few weeks.

Most critically for EngageMedia the event saw a deepening of existing regional networking, the development of further regional and global dialogue and a number of emerging and concrete collaborations.

RC_Impact_2In particular we were very please to see solid outcomes such as the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability; a framework of safeguards and best practices for protecting free expression online.

EngageMedia will be following up many of the collaborations and regional networking by supporting a series of day long digital rights events in Yangon, Bangok, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta between June and August this year. Stay tuned for more details on those.

If you attended this year's RightsCon, please provide us with your thoughts on the event by submitting feedback in this anonymous survey.

In the next few days the RightsCon and EngageMedia websites will feature an archive of select sessions. Check back in to watch sessions you may have missed and be sure to share them with those who were unable to attend.

And lastly, a huge thank you to Access and the Foundation for Media Alternatives for a fruitful collaboration.

RightsCon Press Briefing, 23 March, 5pm

by EM News March 23, 2015
RightsCon Southeast Asia begins this Tuesday, March 24, in Manila. We're looking forward to seeing you there!

RightsCon SEA 2015

Today (Monday) from 5 - 6pm the event hosts — Access, EngageMedia, and Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) — are hosting a press briefing at Bar One at the Holiday Inn Manila Galleria in Pasig City.

This press briefing is a unique opportunity to meet and talk with the policy analysts, organizers, and advocates behind this year's event. We'll discuss the sessions, speakers, technologies, and collaborations that will be featured throughout the coming days.

More information:
What: Press briefing for RightsCon Southeast Asia
Where: Bar One, Holiday Inn Manila Galleria, Pasig City, Philippines
When: Monday, March 23, 5 – 6pm
Who: RightsCon Southeast Asia Hosts — Access, Engage Media, and Foundation for Media Alternatives

Please RSVP to josh@accessnow.org if you would like to attend today's press briefing, and feel free to forward this invitation to other interested press.

Fmore information about media at RightsCon Southeast Asia please go here.

Engaging Digital Rights in Southeast Asia

by Andrew April 08, 2015
I've just arrived in Manila to a hubbub of activity as EngageMedia, Access and the Foundation for Media Alternatives put the final touches on RightsCon Southeast Asia.

Some of the six satellite events have already begun and excited faces, both old and new, are popping up. After more than a year of intensive work it's great to see the culmination of our combined efforts. With more than 500 people attending, RightsCon Southeast Asia will be a big moment for the digital rights and open internet movement in the region, as well as for EngageMedia.

Why are we here?

EngageMedia has long been involved in the open internet and digital rights space; we built Plumi, our open source video sharing software, promoted Creative Commons among independent video producers in Southeast Asia, conducted a plethora of digital security trainings with media makers, and participated as members in digital rights networks such as the Association for Progressive Communications.

This work has been foundational to our identity, however it is our video initiatives, be it convening regional or global networks, training migrant workers or supporting Papuan communities, that have been the bigger part of our story.

In early 2014 EngageMedia made a strategic decision to commit more deeply to the open internet and digital rights movements, for a number of reasons.

The issues of digital rights, an open internet and media production and distribution cannot be separated.. In our field the internet is the primary distribution channel for this media and where its audience lives. Everything exists within the fabric of the network, and the integrity of that network is being dramatically eroded as a result of both state intelligence agencies and data hungry online platforms.

The Snowden leaks revealed what many already suspected; that US and other intelligence agencies had back doors into user communications at some of the biggest technology companies in the world – Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple and more. The story turns out to be more dramatic than even the most cynical expected, for example, technology companies deliberately making their products insecure at the behest of the NSA, Skype and Microsoft Outlook being amongst them.

There are a myriad of implications of this corrupting of the technology and the network. One is increased security threats to the human rights and environmental advocacy groups EngageMedia works with. Online platforms and applications routinely ingest sensitive information, often happily provided by users, enabling the tracking activities, friendship associations and personal movements down to the smallest detail. For those making and distributing media about politically sensitive issues, be they human rights, climate change or free speech, this absence of privacy can result in direct persecution, but more generally, it has a chilling effect on free speech and political organising.

Security has always been a component of our video production and distribution trainings, however the depth of surveillance now occurring has forced us to significantly increase this work. It also forces us to question the liberatory presumptions behind enabling freedom of expression online when we are also increasing activists' and media makers' capacity to be surveilled.

Our contribution to date in challenging this has been to produce a platform like Plumi for secure video sharing, to use and to advocate the use of open source encryption tools, and to conduct digital security trainings with activists and media makers. The scale of the problem however requires a much larger response. The foundations of our work to assist marginalised groups raise their voices and build their impact are deeply threatened by the absence of a free and open internet and a right to privacy.

Our work also assumes that the communities and social movements we work with have meaningful and affordable access to the internet, a key cornerstone of the what internet freedom is. Video, as the main media we distribute, requires that. Internet access in the region is increasing dramatically, but the difference between the urban and rural is stark. While we have found strategies and tactics to continue our online video distribution work despite this critical gap, our work will be greatly enhanced by equitable internet access across the region.

Fundamentally these issues require a movement to shift the balance of power between citizens, technology companies and governments. For EngageMedia, RightsCon is part of a larger contribution towards building that movement.

After RightsCon EngageMedia will continue our work facilitating networks and supporting social movements in Southeast Asia. Over the coming year we're planning a series of smaller regional events, research, digital security trainings and awareness raising and campaign work.

Hope to see you in Manila!

Less Than One Week to RightsCon!

by EM News March 20, 2015
Next week, representatives from more than 50 countries and 300 institutions will gather in Manila to strategize on ways to protect the open internet and defend the digital rights of its users.

RightsCon Banner

What’s on the Agenda?

More than 110 sessions, lightning talks, tech demos, and private roundtables. Topics include everything from intermediary liability to trade negotiations; from surveillance and privacy to freedom of expression and opinion; from cybersecurity to meme-making. The final program is live, and we couldn't be happier about the quality of programming you've helped us create.

The event is designed to deliver outcomes, build strategies and partnerships, and have honest conversations to advance digital rights in the region.

Who’s Attending?

We’re still counting, but here’s what we know:

  • Attendees from almost every country in Asia
  • More than 20 government bodies from the region and beyond including Sweden, USA, Germany, UK, and Holland
  • 50 corporations, including the major Silicon Valley tech companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Mozilla, and more
  • More than 150 civil society organizations from the EFF, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Thai Netizens Network, ICT Watch, and Centre for Internet and Society
  • More than 15 foundations with a mandate to preserve internet freedom
  • 35 academic institutions from around the world, including Harvard, Stanford, Chulalongkorn, Nanyang Technological, MIT and the Islamic University of Indonesia,
  • 50 coalitions, legal centers and press, including Digital News Asia, GMA News, Thomas-Reuters, and First Look Media

RightsCon Program

New Satellite Event Announcements

We have two new Satellite Events to announce, and one reminder:

* NEW: March 23: Citizenfour: A Special Screening with Jacob Appelbaum

Join hosts Access and Amnesty International for a screening of this Academy Award-winning documentary, March 23 @ 6pm.

* NEW: March 23: Workshop on Guidelines for Documenting International Crimes

Join Open Society Justice Initiative and the Coalition for International Criminal Court-Asia Pacific Network as they workshop the development of guidelines to assist NGO’s in the documentation of criminal human rights abuses. Register here by Friday, March 20.

* REMINDER: On March 23 & 26, LevelUp/Internews, Security First and EngageMedia are hosting a convening of digital security trainers who are actively supporting local communities and networks in Asia. Want to attend? Register here.

RightsCon Partners

The Human Rights Video Collection of Equality Myanmar

by Kyalyi March 19, 2015

Equality Myanmar (EQMM), formerly known as the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), is a nongovernmental organization that facilitates a broad range of human rights training and advocacy programs for grassroots organizations, political parties, and communities.

EQMM has also produced numerous advocacy videos on various issues, and in this blogpost I've highlighted my top three from their amazing collection.

Myanmar's Human Rights Day

March 13 is a date widely recognized as Myanmar's Human Rights Day, and this short video explains why.

On that fateful day in 1988, Ko Phone Maw, a fifth-year student at the Rangoon Institute of Technology was killed by government riot police. This could be considered the key event which sparked off the historic pro-democracy uprising that year.

During that uprising, many political leaders remembered Ko Phone Maw’s death, and planned to commemorate Myanmar's Human Rights Day every year, a tradition that is carried out till today.

Suu Kyi's Speech on the Day Against Child Trafficking

On 12th December 2011, the Day Against Child Trafficking was marked at the CDC school in Mae Sot, Northern Thailand. Parents, teachers, and students from 72 migrant schools, totaling to over two thousand people, attended the ceremony.

The event was opened by a speech by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on child rights and trafficking. She starts by stating that, “Every day should be a day against child trafficking”. She goes on to say, “The trafficking of children, and therefore the trafficking our future, should be stopped. It is very inhumane and is an uneducated idea. This is gambling with our future.”

It is for these reasons that Suu Kyi believes child trafficking should be ended, and why she would like to show appreciation for those who are actively working against the practice.

Surviving on Unwelcoming Hills

This video portrays the ethnic Chin people in Myanmar's far-flung western Chin state, who have long borne the brunt of abusive military rule.

Ongoing repression and abuses by Myanmar's military, combined with policies and procedures of the military government have caused thousands of ethnic Chin to flee the country. Most go across the border to India. Most go across the border to Mirozam, India.

Also examined in the film is the situation across the border in Mizoram State, where the Chin face discrimination, religious repression, and other forums of abuse. The Indian government neglects the Chin living in Mizoram, and thousands of them have been rounded up and forcibly returned by voluntary associations and local authorities.

You can check out more videos from Equality Myanmar's video page. And if you're interested to learn more about contemporary Myanmar and its filmmakers and journalists, look out for updates on our Southeast Asia Video Camp happening in Yangon in June 2015.

Equality Myanmar ၏ အေကာင္းဆံုး လူ႔အခြင့္အေရး ဗီဒီယိုမ်ားကို ခံစားျခင္း

by Kyalyi March 17, 2015

Equality Myanmar (EQMM) ကို  ယခင္က Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) လို႔ အသိမ်ားပါတယ္။ ထိုင္းႏိုင္ငံအေျခစိုက္အေနနဲ႔ HREIB ကို လႈပ္ရွားေဆာင္ရြက္ခဲ့ျပီးေနာက္မွာ Equality Myanmar ကို ဦးေအာင္မ်ိဳးမင္းမွ ရန္ကုန္ျမိဳ႔အေျခစိုကိအျဖစ္ ဦးေဆာင္ ဖြဲ႔စည္းခဲ့ျပီး လူအခြင့္အေရး သင္တန္းမ်ား၊ လူ႔အခြင့္အေရးဆိုင္ရာ အၾကံေပး ေဆြးေႏြးမႈပရိုဂရမ္မ်ားကို တက္ၾကြစြာ လႈပ္ရွားေဆာင္ရြက္ခဲ့ပါတယ္။ ဒါေၾကာင့္လည္း youtube ေပၚမွာupdate လုပ္ကာ အျမဲတင္ဆက္ေလ့ရွိတဲ့ Equality Myanmar ရဲ့ လႈပ္ရွားမႈမ်ားအနက္ မွ စိတ္၀င္စားဖြယ္ အေကာင္းဆံုးဗီဒီယိုဖိုင္မ်ားကို ေလးစားစြာမ်ွေ၀ပါရေစ။ သက္ဆိုင္ရာေခါင္းစဥ္အလိုက္ ေရြးခ်ယ္ စုစည္းထားတဲ့ ညီမွ်ျခင္းျမန္မာ(ေခၚ) Equality Myanmar ရဲ႔ ဗီဒီယိုမ်ားကို သံုးသပ္ရမယ္ဆိုရင္..

မတ္လ(၁၃)ရက္ေန႔ကို ဘာေၾကာင့္ "Myanmar's Human Rights Day" အျဖစ္ သတ္မွတ္ရတယ္ဆိုတာကို ဒီဗီဒီယို ဖိုင္က ရွင္းျပပါလိမ့္မယ္။ ဒါဟာ ၂၀၁၅ ၊ မတ္လျမန္မာ့ႏိုင္ငံေရးအတြက္ ၾကည့္သင့္တဲ့ဗီဒီယိုဖိုင္ တစ္ခု ျဖစ္ပါတယ္။ တကယ့္ျဖစ္ရပ္ကို သမိုင္း၀င္ဓါတ္ပံုမ်ားနဲ႔ တင္ဆက္သြားတာဟာ ဒီဗီဒီယိုရဲ့ အားသာခ်က္ပါပဲ။
ျဖစ္စဥ္အတိုခ်ဳပ္ကို ျပန္လည္မွ်ေ၀ရမယ္ဆိုရင္ ၁၉၈၈ ခုႏွစ္မွာ ရန္ကုန္ RIT ပဥၥမႏွစ္ ေက်ာင္းသား ကိုဖုန္းေမာ္ဟာ အစိုးရရဲ့ အၾကမ္းဖက္ႏွိမ္နင္းမႈေအာက္မွာ အသက္ဆံုးရႈံးခဲ့ရျပီး အဲဒီကမွစလို႔ သမိုင္း၀င္ ၈၈ အေရးေတာ္ပံုၾကီး စတင္ခဲ့ပါတယ္။ အေရးေတာ္ပံုအရွိန္ရေနစဥ္မွာပဲ ကိုဖုန္းေမာ္ကို မေမ့ႏိုင္တဲ့ ေက်ာင္းသားေခါင္းေဆာင္မ်ားက မတ္လ(၁၃)ရက္ေန႔ကို ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံရဲ့ Human Rights Day အျဖစ္ သတ္မွတ္ခဲ့ပါတယ္။

ေဒၚေအာင္ဆန္းစုၾကည္ ၏  မိန္႔ခြန္း
၂၀၁၁၊ ဒီဇင္ဘာလမွာ မဲေဆာက္ရွိ CDC ေက်ာင္းမွာ ကေလးသူငယ္လူကုန္ကူးမႈ တိုက္ဖ်က္ေရးေန႔ ကို HREIB  က က်င္းပခဲ့ပါတယ္။ ဒီပြဲကို ေဒၚေအာင္ဆန္းစုၾကည္ တက္ေရာက္ခဲ့ျပီး သူမရဲ့ ျပတ္သားတဲ့ မိန္႔ခြန္းနဲ႔ အခမ္းအနားကိုဖြင့္လွစ္ခဲ့ပါတယ္။
မိန္႔ခြန္းအစမွာပဲ ေဒၚေအာင္ဆန္းစုၾကည္က ‘ ေန႔ရက္တိုင္းဟာ ကေလးသူငယ္လူကုန္ကူးမႈကို ဆန္႔က်င္တဲ့ ဒီလိုေန႔မ်ိဳးျဖစ္သင့္ေၾကာင္း ‘ ဆိုပါတယ္။ ဒီေနရာမွာ သူမဆက္လက္မိန္႔ၾကားသြားတဲ့ မိန္႔ခြန္းဟာ ျမန္မာ့အနာဂတ္အတြက္ အေရးၾကီးတာေၾကာင့္ ဒီမိန္႔ခြန္းဗီဒီယိုကို မွ်ေ၀ျခင္းျဖစ္ပါတယ္။ ေဒၚေဆာင္ဆန္းစုၾကည္က ဆက္လက္ေျပာသြားတာကေတာ့ ‘ကေလးေတြကို လူကုန္ကူးတယ္ဆိုတာ ကြ်န္မတို႔ရဲ့ အနာဂတ္ကိုပါ ေရာင္းစားခံေနရတာပဲ ‘ တဲ့။
ဒီစကားေၾကာင့္လည္း Equality Myanmar ၏ တန္ဖိုးရွိေသာ မိန္႔ခြန္း ဗီဒီယိုကို Engage Media မွ ဂုဏ္ယူစြာ မွ်ေ၀လိုက္ပါတယ္။

မၾကိဳဆိုေလေသာအရပ္တြင္ ေနထိုင္သူမ်ား
မီဇိုရမ္မွာရွိတဲ့ ခ်င္းတိုင္းရင္းသားမ်ား အေၾကာင္းကို စိတ္၀င္စားဖြယ္ တင္ဆက္ထားတဲ့ ဗီဒီယိုျဖစ္ပါတယ္။ ၁၉၈၈ ခုႏွစ္အတြင္းက ျမန္မာ့တပ္မေတာ္ရဲ့ ဖိစီးမႈေၾကာင့္ အေနာက္ဘက္ ခ်င္းေတာင္တန္းမ်ားကို စြန္႔ခြါ ထြက္ေျပးလာတဲ့ ေထာင္ေပါင္းမ်ားစြာေသာ ခ်င္းတိုင္းရင္းသားမ်ားဟာ အိႏၥၵိယနယ္စပ္ ကိုေက်ာ္လြန္ျပီး မီဇိုရမ္ ကိုေရာက္လာပါတယ္။
မီဇိုရမ္ေရာက္ ခ်င္းတိုင္းရင္းသားမ်ားဟာ  ခြဲျခားဆက္ဆံခံရမႈ၊ ဘာသားေရးဆိုင္ရာ ဖိႏွိပ္မႈနဲ႔ အျခား ဖိႏွိပ္မႈ အမ်ိဳးမ်ိဳးကို ရင္ဆိုင္ရပါတယ္။ အိႏၥၵိယအစိုးရကလည္း မီဇိုရမ္ေရာက္ ခ်င္းတို႔၏ ေနထိုင္မႈဘ၀မ်ားကို ဥေပကၥၵၡာ ျပဳထားျပီး ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံသို႔ ျပန္ရန္ ဖိအားေပးတဲ့အခါမွာ ခ်င္းဒုကၡသည္ေတြရဲ့ဘ၀ဟာ ပိုမို က်ပ္တည္းလာပါေတာ့တယ္။ ၄င္းတို႔ရဲ့ ဆံုးရံႈးရေလေသာ လူ႔အခြင့္အေရးမ်ားအေၾကာင္းကို သမိုင္းျဖစ္ရပ္ေတြနဲ႔ စိတ္၀င္စားဖြယ္ စီကာပတ္ကံုး တင္ဆက္ထားတာ ျပည့္စံုပါတယ္။
Equality Myanmar ရဲ့ စိတ္၀င္စားစရာေကာင္းတဲ့ အျခား ဗီဒီယိုမ်ားကို ဒီမွာ ၾကည့္ႏိုင္ပါတယ္။ Engage Media က Filmmaker မ်ားနဲ႔ ဂ်ာနယ္လစ္မ်ားအတြက္ ၂၀၁၅၊ ဇြန္လမွာ ျပဳလုပ္မယ့္ အေရွ႔ေတာင္အာရွ Video Camp အေၾကာင္း သိခ်င္ရင္ေတာ့ ဒီမွာ ဖတ္ႏိုင္ပါတယ္။.

My Week at the Circumvention Tech Festival

by Dhyta Caturani April 02, 2015
It was an honor for me to be invited to join Circumvention Tech Festival and the first Trainers Summit ever in the Mediterranean city of Valencia, Spain from March 1–6, 2015. This is a report back on how my week was spent there.


Valencia was bright and sunny on March 1st, the first day of the Circumvention Tech Festival (CTFestival) organised by OpenIT and several partners. Well, it was sunny but still pretty chilly for someone like me who came from a tropical country. But that didn’t hinder me from feeling all excited to join more than 400 activists fighting censorship and surveillance for a week of conferences, workshops, hackathons and social gatherings.

The goal of the CTFestival was to provide a space for the community to pool resources, share knowledge, skills and experience, as well as build networks. What made it so much more interesting was that developers were also present, which gave us, the activists on the ground who use the tools they create, an opportunity to interact with them.

The festival was kicked off with the Circumvention Tech Summit (CTS), a one day unconference where participants got to know each other and the event, as well as to explore the topics for discussions set to take place the following week. After lightning speed introductions of every participant, and an explanation of the event and its (strict) privacy rules, a skills-share session began with tons of topics to choose from, ranging from various countries experience sharing on censorship and surveillance situations, to how to conduct digital security trainings, understanding tools such as Enigmail, TOR, TAILS, mobile security tools, etc, to how to get organizational buy-ins and many more.

To find out more about the conferences, workshops, hackathons and social gatherings that happened, go here.


The second day was open for everyone to go to the specific events they came to the festival for. As for myself, I joined the Trainers Summit organized by Internews, TOR Project, and IREX. The summit was attended by more than 100 participants from all over the world with all regions being represented. The first half of the first day was open to members of the public and started with a speed-geeking session featuring 11 organizations presenting their work. I was one of the 11, and presented our work for EngageMedia and video4change, which is a global network of organizations using video for social change.

The rest of the summit was private and only for participants who registered prior. For the next four days, we discussed everything regarding digital security training. We started out with mapping out regions and countries where participants conduct digital security trainings and who we train. It was such an amazing feeling to see the wide range of countries and communities everyone was working in and with. It gave us a clearer idea of how digital security is being spread throughout the world.

The summit also tried to map out what digital security trainers around the world needed, be it knowledge, skills, tools, or other resources that would help them do their work on the ground.

The best part in my view, were the break-out sessions where we planned a training based on (mostly) real-life cases. Those sessions provided us with a lot of insights and experiences from different places. I think the sessions were very fruitful to me to learn about best practices from other trainers, on what I think I can apply in my trainings. We also tried to formulate a way to shift the focus of digital security trainings from tools to humans.

On the last day, we had a chance to have small group discussions on various tools and talked to some of the developers. It was a good opportunity to get better understandings of the tools and updates on the their development.


Gender and sexuality was a major intersecting issue that was discussed a lot during the summit, by being built-in to the sessions and in and of itself. Some of the highlights included the discussion on how to work with communities of women and especially LGBTIQ on issues of privacy, surveillance and digital security, as well as a conversation on whether it's a good idea to mix women and LGBTIQ in general trainings. And if that is possible, we discussed what the appropriate strategies to conduct such inclusive trainings are. All the dialogue on gender and sexuality gave us a strong realization of how we need more women trainers, and trainers who understand those issues well or are at least gender-sensitive. Another issue that I personally think worth noting is that we need more trainers from Asia since it was well under represented (there were only 4 of us from 3 countries, of which only 1 from Southeast Asia). It may be because there is not many out there or it may be because we haven't identified them.

As a whole, the CTFestival and the Trainers Summit were huge successes. I didn’t learn many new skills in terms of the use of tools, but I guess the summit was not designed for that. It was designed to be a space to share experiences and a methodologies in delivering trainings. It successfully fulfilled that goal, and it was proven to be invaluable!

I hope that the summit would not stop at this, since it would be great to have everything documented and shared widely, not only what was brought up during the summit but also any developments, progress, experiments, and best practices afterwards. And I believe that level-up would be a great platform for a collaborative effort such as that.

*Image from here.