Videre est Credere (seeing is believing) was launched in 2008. What was the inspiration?
As a filmmaker who is also passionate about political and social change I was always interested in using video cameras to monitor and prevent injustice. I first experimented with this concept over 20 years ago, when video cameras became democratized, ie inexpensive and easy to use. Six years ago I approached Oren Yakobovich, who had pioneered an award-winning camera distribution project in the occupied territories of Palestine, at the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. We realized we had a similar vision and together we founded Videre.
In a world of 24-hour news, social media and the internet, is there still a need for your organization to act as a conduit for video exposés?
Definitely. Videre is more than a conduit for video information. We work with communities in remote and neglected areas with limited access to technology and internet. We equip, train and support local activists in these hard-to-access areas to film their reality and reveal it to the world. Our unique methodology addresses the lack of research, security training and verification that hampers citizen journalists’ current efforts to expose human rights violations. We then ensure that the collected footage is distributed to the right audience at the right time – be they media, lawyers, politicians or decision-makers – to ensure maximum impact and create real change on the ground.
Are there any specific success stories you can tell us about?
We cannot reveal our countries of operation for security reasons, but I can say that we are often the primary source of visual information in the areas where we operate. We have provided over 450 stories to media outlets, ranging from the BBC to local radio channels, and briefed change agents from local NGOs to the US National Security Council. We have captured evidence of abuses ranging from targeted violence to displacement to intimidation. Our work has resulted in prosecutions of politicians for hate speech and incitement of violence; in MPs being humiliated and forced to step down, curtailing their intimidation of civilians; in improved treatment of HIV sufferers; and in practitioners of female genital mutilation renouncing the procedure.
Your work complements that of Wikileaks in exposing truths powerful players would rather were kept hidden. Have you and your sources faced a similar level of scrutiny and threat by governments and others?
We work in places where the liberty of our partners is already at risk and we help them work more safely through our rigorous security-training programme. Security is an integral component of our methodology and we make every effort to ensure our partners are not put at risk, before, during and after filming, using covert cameras when necessary. I don’t think I’ve been scrutinized by any government, but in our day and age, who knows…
You’ve been working in the film industry since 1985. What drew you to filmmaking?
The ability to tell complex stories in a visual way. I was also excited by the potential of film and TV reaching large numbers of people, touching them in an emotional and intellectual way.
Which of the many films you have produced are you most proud of, and why?
Dar o dur (The Price of Bread), which is the first real Palestinian film, a documentary directed by Rashid Mashraui, a great Palestinian director, in Gaza, his home town.
London has more closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras than most other cities. How do you feel about being watched, even as you watch others?
Like any other technology, video surveillance can be used for good as well as for bad. In London, if you commit a traffic violation it will probably be captured on CCTV and you will be prosecuted. We’d like to think that one day Videre will do the same for justice, everywhere in the world.
At Videre, we are turning the cameras on Big Brother. We are building film communities, trying to enhance liberty, empower minorities and help them have their voices heard. But, as we all know, similar technologies used by the wrong powers could be damaging and a threat to freedom.
What are your hopes for Videre est Credere? Do you have any other projects lined up?
Our vision is a world where no human rights violation goes unseen or without remedy. Videre has big ambitions for the future and several new projects in the pipeline, but for security reasons we can’t discuss them, sorry…