Irrepressible Voices: A New Human Rights Video Website

In recent years, few major catastrophes have taken place without being captured through video, pictures, or tweets by ordinary citizens. Citizen journalists have reported on everything from the civil war in Syria, to natural disasters such as the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, to incidents of police brutality at Occupy protests.

This kind of raw documentation brings new complexity to the information landscape. It has created new avenues for news dissemination, and as more mainstream media outlets include citizen media in their reporting, it has changed and enhanced their coverage. However, there still is a gap between the mainstream media, with their large audiences, and these citizen journalists that must be bridged.

The newly launched project Irrepressible Voices (IV) aims to fill this gap by creating a platform that will connect online activists, bloggers, and citizen journalists with the mainstream media as well as with policy and decision makers.

Irrepressible Voices will focus explicitly on human rights. Users from all over the world are invited to securely upload their videos to the Irrepressible Voices platform. After content is uploaded to the platform, the IV team will verify the video’s content, discuss the problems depicted, and identify ways to advocate on the issue in question. This final step will often involve work with other NGOs working in this area. While the community interacts on the platform, IV will connect them with experts from partner institutions.

This short video provides a first impression of the topics that Irrepressible Voices wants to cover:

Irrepressible Voices came into being a year ago during the 5th Initiative on Human Rights and Internet by the Internet & Society Collaboratory. Bloggers from around the world were asked to send their video responses on how the Internet helps to enforce human rights.

The response confirmed the need for people to broadcast their living environment and realities. The Berlin-based Irrepressible Voices team (journalist and social entrepreneur Isabel Gahren, human rights expert Linda Walter, and Eike Leonhardt, a scientist at the Leibniz Information Centre for Economics) started Irrepressible Voices with the support of Futurechallenges.org and Internet & Society Collaboratory.

IV’s partners and media collaborators will help to reach an international audience and thereby increase awareness of their causes. Irrepressible Voices is already collaborating with Reporters without Borders Germany, Futurechallenges.org, Witness.org, Co:llaboratory, Social Impact Lab, and Sourcefabric.

The Irrepressible Voices website is still in its beta phase, but there are already some videos on the platform. The video above was produced in cooperation with Future Challenges and it shows how important the Internet is when it comes to human rights violations. Citizens from all over the world can raise awareness for their causes and make their voices heard.

This post has originally been published on Global Voices Advocacy.

Irrepressiblevoices.org and Freedom on the Internet


irrepressiblevoices logo

Over the past few months a worldwide protest movement has arisen with the aim of stopping various planned legislative moves for tighter regulation and control of the internet. Opponents of these proposed laws believe they endanger freedom on the internet. Yet the debates waged on this matter have also made it clear that “Freedom on the Net” has different shades of meaning in different states. In many autocratic states it primarily means the simple freedom to speak your mind without fear of physical reprisals.

FutureChallenges has seen through its bloggers how the internet gives people in authoritarian states a voice with which they can draw attention to their situation. This is why futurechallenges.org in partnership with theInternetundGesellschaftCo:llaboratory and theKonradAdenauerStiftung has now launched the irrepressiblevoices.org project. A special channel on YouTube is dedicated to showing how FutureChallenges’ and other bloggers can engage with social media to put the spotlight on violations of human rights, and how activists and bloggers can encourage other people to take a stand.

In a globalized world it’s not just markets that are moving ever close together but people as well – and the internet is one of the key channels for bringing them closer together. The newly launched irrepressiblevoices.org project should help to give a voice to those many people who otherwise cannot easily make themselves heard.

This blogpost has originally been published on futurechallenges.org.

German Tanks and the Arab Spring

Next week the 3rd Arms Trade Treaty Prep Com at the United Nations in New York (July 11-15th) will take place. The purpose of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is to set up legally binding rules to regulate the global arms trade. Questions like: which weapons will be integrated in a regulating mechanism? Will small arms and light weapons be included? Should aspects like human rights be considered when arms exports to authoritarian countries are coming under scrutiny?

The last question has become a pressing issue in Germany. The news magazine “Der Spiegel” has reported that Germany plans to sell 200 Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi-Arabia. These tanks could also be used against demonstrators says a German security expert. Now, in the Prep Coms Germany has supported a human rights based approach to an ATT – see the statement made by a Belgian special envoy speaking on behalf of the European Union:

“An ATT should prevent conventional weapons from being used to contribute to armed conflicts, trans-national organized crime, terrorist acts, serious human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, which undermine peace, security, regional stability, and sustainable social and economic development.”

The German government does not seem to be concerned about possible human rights violations in Saudi-Arabia like a crackdown of Saudis who are protesting in favor of reforms or violence against protesters in nearby Bahrain (like it happened in March). Instead, the argument goes like this:

Iran is pursuing regional power ambitions => Iran is kind of an enemy and a threat for regional stability => Saudi-Arabia should be supported to be a counterbalance  to Iran in the region=> If we don’t deliver them the US, Spain or others will do it.

Obviously the German government hasn’t noticed the momentum of human-rights in the Arab world. Instead of sending tanks to Saudi-Arabia the German government should stick to its declared goal of trying to prevent human rights violations. What else would you call a possible use of German tanks for cracking down protests in Saudi-Arabia or Bahrain?