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TEDGlobal 2014

Oren Yakobovich: Hidden cameras that film injustice in the world’s most dangerous places

October 14, 2014

To see is to believe, says Oren Yakobovich — which is why he helps everyday people use hidden cameras to film dangerous situations of violence, political fraud and abuse. His organization, Videre, uncovers, verifies and publicizes human-rights abuses that the world needs to witness.

Oren Yakobovich - Human-rights activist
Videre co-founder Oren Yakobovich wields the latest covert recording technology to expose and subvert violent oppression. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I would like to start
00:12
with the story of Mary,
00:14
a woman from an African village.
00:16
Her first memories
00:19
are of her family fleeing violent riots
00:20
orchestrated by
the ruling political party.
00:23
Her brother was murdered
by the state-sponsored militia,
00:27
and she was raped more than once
00:31
just because she belonged
to the wrong party.
00:33
One morning, a month before the election,
00:38
Mary's village was called
to another intimidation meeting.
00:41
In this meeting, there is a man
standing in front of them,
00:45
telling them, "We know who you are,
00:48
we know who you will vote for,
00:50
and if you're not going
to drop the right paper,
00:53
we're going to take revenge."
00:55
But for Mary, this meeting is different.
00:58
She feels different.
01:01
This time, she's waiting for this meeting,
01:03
because this time, she's carrying
a small hidden camera in her dress,
01:06
a camera that nobody else can see.
01:10
Nobody is allowed to film
in these meetings.
01:13
You risk your life if you do.
01:15
Mary knows that, but she also knows
that the only way to stop them
01:17
and to protect herself and her community
01:21
is to expose their intimidation,
01:25
to make sure they understand
somebody is following them,
01:27
to break the impunity they feel.
01:31
Mary and her friends were filming
for months, undercover,
01:35
the intimidation of
the ruling political party.
01:39
(Video) ["Filmed with hidden cameras"]
01:43
Man: We are now going to speak
about the upcoming elections.
01:45
Nothing can stop us
from doing what we want.
01:50
If we hear you are with [The Opposition]
01:53
we will not forgive you.
01:56
["Militia intimidation rally"]
01:59
[The Party] can torture you at any time.
02:04
The youth can beat you.
02:07
["Disruption of political meeting"]
02:10
For those who lie, saying they
are back with [The Party],
02:19
your time is running out.
02:23
["Party youth militia"]
02:25
Some have died because they rebelled.
02:29
Some have lost their homes.
02:31
If you don't work together
with [The Party],
02:34
you will lead a very bad life.
02:38
Oren Yakobovich: These images
were broadcast all over the world,
02:50
but more importantly,
02:53
they have been broadcast
back to the community.
02:55
The perpetrators saw them too.
02:58
They understood somebody
is following them.
03:01
They got scared. Impunity was broken.
03:03
Mary and her friends forced
the ruling political party
03:06
not to use violence during the election,
03:09
and saved hundreds of lives.
03:12
Mary is just one of hundreds of people
03:15
that my organization had helped
to document human rights violations
03:18
using cameras.
03:21
My background should have
led me to a different direction.
03:24
I was born in Israel
to a right-wing family,
03:28
and as long as I remember myself,
03:31
I wanted to join the Israeli army
to serve my country
03:33
and prove what I believed
was our right for the whole land.
03:36
I joined the Israeli army
just after the first intifada,
03:40
the first Palestinian uprising,
03:46
and I served in one of the hard-minded,
03:48
toughest, aggressive infantry units,
03:50
and I got the biggest gun in my platoon.
03:53
Quite fast, I became an officer
03:58
and got soldiers under my command,
04:01
and as time passed, I started
serving in the West Bank,
04:04
and I saw these images.
04:07
I didn't like what I saw.
04:17
It took me a while,
04:19
but eventually I refused
to serve in the West Bank
04:21
and had to spend time in jail.
04:24
It was a bit —
04:27
(Applause) —
04:28
It was not that bad, I have to say.
04:31
It was a bit like being in a hotel,
but with very shitty food.
04:33
(Laughter)
04:36
In jail, I kept thinking
that I need people to know.
04:37
I need people to understand
04:41
what the reality
in the West Bank looks like.
04:43
I need them to hear what I heard,
04:46
I need them to see what I saw,
04:48
but I also understood, we need
the Palestinians themselves,
04:50
the people that are suffering,
04:54
to be able to tell their own stories,
04:55
not journalists or filmmakers
that are coming outside of the situation.
04:57
I joined a human rights organization,
05:03
an Israeli human rights
organization called B'Tselem.
05:06
Together, we analyzed the West Bank
05:09
and picked 100 families that
are living in the most risky places:
05:11
close to checkpoints, near army bases,
05:15
side by side with settlers.
05:19
We gave them cameras and training.
05:21
Quite fast, we started getting
very disturbing images
05:25
about how the settlers
and the soldiers are abusing them.
05:30
I would like to share with you
two clips from this project.
05:35
Both of them were broadcast in Israel,
and it created a massive debate.
05:38
And I have to warn you,
05:42
some of you might
find them quite explicit.
05:43
The masked men you
will see in the first clips
05:46
are Jewish settlers.
05:49
Minutes before the camera was turned on,
05:51
they approached a Palestinian family
05:53
that was working their land
05:55
and told them that they
have to leave the land,
05:57
because this land belongs
to the Jewish settlers.
05:59
The Palestinians refused.
06:01
Let's see what happened.
06:03
The masked men that are approaching
are Jewish settlers.
06:06
They are approaching
the Palestinian family.
06:10
This is a demonstration in the West Bank.
06:32
The guy in green is Palestinian.
06:35
He will be arrested in a second.
06:36
Here you see him
blindfolded and handcuffed.
06:39
In a few seconds, he regrets
he came to this demonstration.
06:42
He's been shot in the foot
with a rubber bullet.
06:49
He is okay.
06:55
Not all the settlers and the soldiers
are acting this way.
07:00
We're talking about a tiny minority,
but they have to be brought to justice.
07:04
These clips, and others like them,
07:08
forced the army and the police
to start investigations.
07:11
They've been shown in Israel, of course,
07:14
and the Israeli public
was exposed to them also.
07:16
This project redefined
the struggle for human rights
07:19
in the occupied territories,
07:22
and we managed to reduce the number
of violent attacks in the West Bank.
07:24
The success of this project
got me thinking
07:32
how I can take the same methodology
to other places in the world.
07:34
Now, we tend to believe that today,
07:38
with all of the technology,
07:39
the smartphones and the Internet,
07:41
we are able to see and understand
most of what's happening in the world,
07:43
and people are able to tell their story —
07:46
but it's only partly true.
07:48
Still today, with all
the technology we have,
07:50
less than half of the world's population
07:53
has access to the Internet,
07:56
and more than three billion people —
07:58
I'm repeating the number —
08:00
three billion people are consuming news
that is censored by those in power.
08:02
More or less around the same time,
08:10
I'm approached by a great guy
named Uri Fruchtmann.
08:12
He's a filmmaker and an activist.
08:15
We understood we were
thinking along the same lines,
08:17
and we decided to establish Videre,
our organization, together.
08:20
While building the organization in London,
08:26
we've been traveling undercover to places
08:29
where a community
was suffering from abuses,
08:31
where mass atrocities were happening,
08:33
and there was a lack of reporting.
08:36
We tried to understand how we can help.
08:39
There were four things that I learned.
08:42
The first thing is that we have to engage
08:45
with communities that are
living in rural areas,
08:48
where violations are happening
far from the public eye.
08:51
We need to partner with them,
08:54
and we need to understand which images
are not making it out there
08:56
and help them to document them.
09:00
The second thing I learned
09:03
is that we have to enable them
to film in a safe way.
09:05
Security has to be the priority.
09:09
Where I used to work before,
in the West Bank,
09:13
one can take a camera out,
09:15
most likely not going to get shot,
09:17
but in places we wanted to work,
09:20
just try to pull a phone out,
and you're dead — literally dead.
09:21
This is why we decided
09:26
to take the operation undercover
09:28
when necessary,
09:30
and use mostly hidden cameras.
09:31
Unfortunately, I can't show you
the hidden cameras we're using today —
09:33
for obvious reasons —
09:37
but these are cameras we used before.
09:38
You can buy them off the shelf.
09:40
Today, we're building
a custom-made hidden camera,
09:43
like the one that Mary was wearing
09:46
in her dress to film
the intimidation meeting
09:48
of the ruling political party.
09:50
It's a camera that nobody can see,
09:52
that blends into the environment,
09:54
into the surroundings.
09:57
Now, filming securities go beyond
using hidden cameras.
09:59
Being secure starts way before
the activist is turning the camera on.
10:03
To keep our partners safe,
10:07
we work to understand
the risk of every location
10:10
and of every shot before it's happened,
10:12
building a backup plan
if something goes wrong,
10:15
and making sure
we have everything in place
10:18
before our operations start.
10:20
The third thing I learned
is the importance of verification.
10:23
You can have an amazing shot of atrocity,
10:27
but if you can't verify it,
it's worth nothing.
10:30
Recently, like in the ongoing war
in Syria or the war in Gaza,
10:33
we've seen images that are staged
or brought from a different conflict.
10:37
This misinformation destroyed
the credibility of the source,
10:42
and it's harmed the credibility of other
reliable and trustworthy sources.
10:45
We use a variety of ways to make sure
we can verify the information
10:50
and we can trust the material.
10:54
It starts with vetting the partners,
10:56
understanding who they are,
and working with them very intensively.
10:58
How do you film a location?
11:01
You film road signs, you film watches,
11:03
you film newspapers.
11:05
We are checking maps, looking at maps,
11:06
double-checking the information,
11:11
and looking also at
the metadata of the material.
11:13
Now, the fourth and the most
important thing I learned
11:17
is how you use images
to create a positive change.
11:21
To have an effect,
11:26
the key thing is how you use the material.
11:28
Today, we're working
with hundreds of activists
11:32
filming undercover.
11:35
We work with them both to understand
the situation on the ground
11:36
and which images
are missing to describe it,
11:39
who are the ones that are
influencing the situation,
11:42
and when to release the material
to advance the struggle.
11:47
Sometimes, it's about
putting it in the media,
11:51
mostly local ones, to create awareness.
11:54
Sometimes it's working
with decision makers,
11:56
to change laws.
11:58
Sometimes, it's working with lawyers
to use as evidence in court.
11:59
But more than often,
12:04
the most effective way
to create a social change
12:05
is to work within the community.
12:09
I want to give you one example.
12:12
Fatuma is part of a network of women
that are fighting abuses in Kenya.
12:14
Women in her community
have been harassed constantly
12:20
on their way to school
and on their way to work.
12:23
They are trying to change
the behavior of the community from inside.
12:25
In the next clip,
12:29
Fatuma is taking us with her
on her journey to work.
12:32
Her voice is superimposed
on images that she filmed herself
12:36
using hidden cameras.
12:40
(Video) Fatuma Chiusiku:
My name is Fatuma Chiusiku.
12:42
I'm 32 years old, a mother,
12:45
And Ziwa La Ng'Ombe is my home.
12:47
Each morning, I ride the mini-bus
12:51
Number 11.
12:53
But instead of a peaceful journey to work,
12:55
each day begins with fear.
12:58
Come with me now
13:02
and use my eyes
13:03
to feel what I feel.
13:05
As I walk, I think to myself:
13:11
Will I be touched?
13:13
Grabbed?
13:15
Violated by this conductor again?
13:16
Even the men inside
13:19
the way they look at me
13:22
touch my body, rub against me,
13:24
grab me,
13:26
and now, as I sit in my seat
13:28
I only wish my mind was full
of thoughts for my day,
13:30
my dreams, my children at school,
13:33
but instead I worry about
the moment when we will arrive
13:35
and I will be violated again.
13:39
OY: Today, there is a new front
in the fight for human rights.
13:44
I used to carry a big gun.
13:49
Now, I am carrying this.
13:52
This is a much more powerful
and much, much more effective weapon.
13:55
But we have to use its power wisely.
14:02
By putting the right images
in the right hands at the right time,
14:06
we can truly create an impact.
14:11
Thank you.
14:14
(Applause)
14:16
Thank you.
14:25
(Applause)
14:27

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Oren Yakobovich - Human-rights activist
Videre co-founder Oren Yakobovich wields the latest covert recording technology to expose and subvert violent oppression.

Why you should listen

Using recording technology -- some of it so secret you haven’t heard of it yet -- Videre connects with activists deep within the most repressive regimes to video-document human-rights abuses and expose them to worldwide scrutiny. Yakobovich believes that only action by the oppressed communities themselves will temper the worst excesses of their authoritarian governments. 

Videre's name comes from the Latin expression "videre est credere" -- to see is to believe. Previously, Yakobovich (together with Israeli watchdog group B’Tselem) initiated the camera documentation project, which delivered hundreds of cameras to Palestinians to expose the daily realities of life in the West Bank. 

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