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Customer Stories - WITNESS

There are certain images that we consider "world changing" - images that have focused on an event we may have otherwise never known about, and made us sit up and take notice. Images like the Tiananmen Square protests, the Rodney King incident, or the recent stories of Chechen prisoners. But while those images are immediately familiar, we seldom think about how those images got to us. That's where organizations like WITNESS come in.WITNESS

The idea that would later become WITNESS had its start during the 1988 Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour. It was then that musician and activist Peter Gabriel brought along a Sony Handycam to record the stories he heard. Further encouraged by the growing pervasiveness of citizen journalism in the early 1990s, Gabriel founded WITNESS in 1992 with the help of a seed grant from the Reebok Human Rights Foundation and a partnership with the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First). Today, WITNESS is an independent nonprofit organization that has trained and partnered with hundreds of human rights activists in over 80 countries around the world.

WITNESS Training Session

The role of WITNESS is to empower people to use video to expose human rights abuses and create positive change. As technology has become easier to acquire and use, the number of ordinary citizens acting as journalists has grown and WITNESS has been there to help provide inspiration, collaboration, training, preservation of material, and dissemination of their campaign messages.

Their partners consist of activists and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) that have addressed such issues as atrocities in El Salvador and Guatemala, Sierra Leone's civil war, displacements in Burma, and elder abuse in the United States. They aren't just documenting either; WITNESS and its partners have had measurable impacts in cases such as modern slavery in Brazil (resulting in official investigations starting in 2007) and child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (resulting in the arrests of at least five DRC warlords since 2007).

By recognizing the power of video and using it to bring human rights struggles to light, WITNESS provides the tools necessary for ordinary citizens to provide those images to the rest of the world. You can learn more about WITNESS at

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