Planning to Preserve Video for Human Rights

Planning to Preserve Video for Human Rights If you are using video to document human rights, you want to make sure that your work and the stories you capture are not lost, discredited, or forgotten. Archiving and preserving your videos will help ensure that they’re there when needed, whether you want to use it to advocate for change or to raise awareness of an issue, to achieve justice and accountability, or to ensure that these occurrences are remembered by future generations. Let’s look at three scenarios and identify some of the archival considerations to plan for in the short, medium, and long term. Videos are often used for advocacy and raising awareness soon after an event, in order to draw attention to a current problem and push for change. For example, the Cambodian human rights organization LICADHO published this video shortly after a protest in which authorities turned water cannons on local activists. Videos like this that will be used to advocate and raise awareness right away need to be easy to identify and find, and protected from being lost or deleted. So, in the short-term, you would need to think about basic media management like collecting information or metadata about your videos, and organizing and backing up your files. Then, after 3 to 5 years, you should start thinking about replacing your hard drives to protect against hardware failure. When videos are used in justice and accountability contexts, they may need to be available for even longer after an event occurred to prove that something did or did not happen. For example, at the trial of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga at the International Criminal Court, it took 3 years after he enlisted, conscripted, and used child soldiers for the court to issue his initial arrest warrant and another 6 years to render the guilty verdict. Video was used before and during the trial to provide evidence of his crimes. To maintain videos and their authenticity over a longer period of time like in this case, there are additional contingencies to plan for. If your video is altered or changes custody, you need to document the changes and keep a record of who has possession of the video over time. You should also plan to convert your video to a newer format before it becomes out-of-date or unplayable with new technology, while keeping copies in the original format safe and intact. In the much longer term, your video can be used to ensure that what has happened is acknowledged and not forgotten in our collective history and memory. For this, your video will need to remain available for decades after it was filmed. Organizational sustainability and permanence become important considerations. Who will care for your videos when you or your organization are no longer around? Videos documenting the aftermath of mass atrocities and destruction in Kosovo in the late 1990s , for example, are being preserved for the future in institutions like Open Society Archive, an international repository of human rights movements and grave human rights violations at Central European University in Budapest. Many individuals and organizations partner with established institutions, that they trust will survive and provide access to their videos in the future. There may be institutions that would be a good fit for your collection. It’s not too early to start planning for the long-term care of your videos now. Videos often have lasting value that go beyond their immediate use. To keep your videos intact, authentic, and accessible, take action to preserve them. For more information on how to archive and preserve your videos, check out our Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video, at

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