Today, over 65 years after the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, people in every corner of the world continue to face gross violations of their rights. Many issues get reported thanks to the increasing accessibility of mobile and social media technology, and the global reach of mainstream media. But for every story that gets reported, there are countless others that don’t.
International non-profit Videre Est Credere is working to change that. Established in 2008, Videre equips activists in some of the most dangerous parts of the world with the camera equipment, training and support needed to safely secure video footage of human rights abuses. Gathered footage then undergoes an intensive verification process and, when appropriate, is distributed free of charge to key stakeholders with the power to effect change including mainstream media, courts, lawyers and civil society organizations.
Videre partners with local activists based on the type of footage needed, the level of risk involved and where they can have the most impact. Footage is captured on tiny Chinese-made spy cameras. It is then copied from the device’s SD card on to a hard drive, disguised as an MP3 or .mov file and encrypted in the country of origin. All footage is vetted through forensic analysis and teams on the ground to ensure accuracy. Video footage also undergoes several rounds of translation to capture language nuances and ensure it is used as was originally intended.
Videre’s name originates from a Latin phrase meaning “to see is to believe”. The hope is that by making camera equipment accessible and the filming process as safe as possible, everyday activists can help expose wrongdoings, challenge impunity and drive change. Videre also maintains an archive of all footage to ensure there is a strong body of evidence that can be leveraged for court cases, briefings and more in the future.
The organization’s CEO and co-founder is Oren Yakobovich, a former Israeli soldier who became disillusioned by what he saw while serving in the West Bank. After refusing to take another post in the region, Yakobovich was placed in jail for a month and has worked to expose human rights violations through film ever since.
Videre’s innovative approach seeks to give a voice to oppressed communities in a tangible and sustainable way. Current civil society efforts to expose human rights violations and political corruption are hindered by security concerns, lack of reach, limited financial resources and content verification issues. By working directly with communities on the ground in hard-to-reach areas, providing the equipment and extensive security training, and conducting a thorough verification process, Videre is able to overcome many of these limitations.
The risk of being caught is obviously the largest deterrent for individuals seeking to expose injustice. Videre’s rigorous training seeks to mitigate risk by covering data storage, communication encryption, counter-surveillance, operational security and more. Participants are also trained on how to capture quality footage and how to integrate their security training into their daily lives.
Evaluating the impact of this initiative is challenging given its secretive nature. The countries and human rights activists involved cannot be named and, since Videre does not take public credit for its captured footage, it is difficult to ascertain how extensive their reach is. It is, however, estimated that their footage is broadcast or published by major media outlets an average of three times per week, and that many perpetrators have been brought to trial as a result of their work.