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Eyewitness video footage may provide valuable documentation of human rights violations. In some cases, these videos are the only visual documentation of abuse, and can provide critical answers to questions surrounding a story or an investigation.
Yet deciding if and how to share the footage publicly is rarely a simple process. Some eyewitness videos have the potential to put individuals and communities at greater risk of harm if shared widely or misused.
Many videos found online were never meant to be public in the first place. Others were taken with the intent to cause fear, inflict harm, or incite violence.
These videos raise the question for journalists, human rights advocates, documentarians, and investigators: How can we apply the principles of safe and ethical human rights practices—including a commitment to respect human dignity, empower affected communities, and minimize harm—when presented with visual documentation that we ourselves did not collect?
While technology makes it easy to link to a YouTube video in an online report, embed it in an article, or edit numerous clips into a video montage or documentary film, you want to consider the implications of doing so for those involved in the video and the issue it documents.
Below are principles to guide the ethical curation of eyewitness videos, as well as tools, resources, and examples of how to approach ethical challenges.
The guide is divided by responsibilities to three stakeholders of video footage:
I. the individuals filmed;
II. the video creators; and
III. the audience.