Tuesday, June 30, 2009

b'tselem's palestinian video camera project wins one world media special award

a settler caught on video beating a Palestinian farmer (picture courtesy of B'Tselem)

Award-winning project enables Palestinians to ‘shoot back’ – with camcorders
by Susannah Tarbush
Saudi Gazette June 29 2009

An innovative project that provides Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza with video cameras and trains them to record Israeli human rights abuses won the Special Award for the Israeli human rights charity B’Tselem, at the One World Media awards ceremony in London last week.

B’Tselem launched the Camera Distribution Project in January 2007, and so far, some 100 video cameras have been distributed. The project facilitates “citizen journalism” at its most raw and vital. Palestinians armed with camcorders have shot a gruesome catalogue of videos, which have been uploaded by B’Tselem’s website, circulated to TV channels and news agencies, and posted on YouTube.

Dozens of examples of violence by settlers and soldiers, and of the harsh realities of daily life, have been recorded. In one video, masked settlers armed with sticks beat a Palestinian shepherd and his wife in Khirbet Susiya. Hebron has been a particular focus for Israeli violence and abuse: the examples include a settler firing from short range and wounding Palestinians, a female settler repeatedly yelling abuses at a Palestinian woman, and settler adults and children hurling stones at Palestinians.

In one notorious case, a video shot by a 17-year-old girl shows a young man, Ashraf Abu Rahma, during a demonstration against the building of the separation wall in the village of Ni’lin. Abu Rahma was blindfolded and handcuffed by Israeli soldiers (pictured, courtesy of B'Tselem) and shot in the foot with a rubber at close range, causing him to collapse. In fact, this is one of several videos that have led to Israeli investigations of Israelis shown using unacceptable violence.

The Special Award was judged by the nine trustees of One World, and sponsored by the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University. The award is for the most outstanding media project or organization which is working on the ground in the developing world, and has an important impact on the lives of those around it.

The director of B’Tselem’s Video Department, Oren Yakobovich, and his Palestinian colleague Issa Amro of Hebron, received the award (pictured at the awards ceremony, Issa on the left). Yakobovich said, “We are delighted to be honored at these prestigious awards that celebrate the highest achievements in the media,” adding, “by giving people a camera, we’re giving them the chance to document the attacks they’ve been suffering for years. They finally have something they can ‘shoot back with’.”

The director of One World Media, Andy Glynne, said the organization is particularly proud of the Special Award this year. “The number of entries clearly surpassed anything we have had before, a testament to the energies of local media organizations, who are able to contribute, in their own unique way, to making media really matter on the ground around the world.”

The Camera Distribution Project faced tough competition from other entries on the Special Award shortlist. The judges commended several other projects, including Iraq’s first independent news agency Aswat al-Iraq and two TV soaps – a Dalan tele-serial (a weekly tale of Dalits) from Nepal, and Makutano Junction from Kenya.
The awards ceremony was presented by the award-winning foreign correspondent Fergal Keane and attended by more than 400 personalities from the media, government and the international development sector. Those present included the editor of the Guardian newspaper Alan Rusbridger, the head of news and current affairs at Channel 4 Dorothy Byrne, and actress Trudie Styler who founded the Rainforest Foundation Fund with her rock musician husband Sting.

The One World Media Awards, now in their 21st year, recognize excellence in media coverage of the developing world, and are regarded as the “Oscars” of factual broadcasting and journalism. They recognize the unique part played by journalists and filmmakers in bridging the gap between different societies and increasing awareness of pressing development issues.

It is heartening that such awards exist in a media climate in Britain in which the media is generally accused of dumbing down and is in thrall to the trivial celebrity culture. The sponsors of the awards include the BBC, Channel 4, Reuters, UNICEF and the British government’s Department for International Development.

The Middle East cropped up in relation to several of the twelve awards. This year saw the introduction of a new category – the Drama Award – which was won by the Lebanese feature film “Under the Bombs” directed by Lebanese-French director Philippe Aractingi.

“Under the Bombs” is the story of a mother looking for her son in the wake of the 2006 Israeli bombings of Lebanon. The judges praised its “powerful immediacy and truthfulness... an unusual marriage of a beautifully plotted script with a real-time journey across a devastated country.”

Jonathan Miller of Channel 4 News won the prize for Broadcast Journalist of the Year. He has produced a string of valuable reports from conflict hotspots, including his dispatches on Gaza during and after the Israeli offensive.

The BBC program “Iran and the West: The Pariah State”, produced by Norma Percy, won the TV Documentary Award. It is the second episode of the three-part series “Iran and the West” screened in February this year to mark the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. The Radio Documentary Award went to another BBC program, “Crossing Continents: Dharavi” on an area of Mumbai that is said to be Asia’s biggest slum.

The International Development Award went to the film “Crude”, made by Joe Berlinger on the infamous 13-year “Amazon Chernobyl” case involving companies developing oil in Ecuador, and communities nearly destroyed by oil drilling. The judges praised the film’s “subtle nuance and real emotional engagement”.
The British Red Cross won the New Media Award for its interactive web game “Traces of Hope”. The game raises awareness of the charity’s Tracing and Message Service which puts in touch members of families separated by conflict or natural disaster.

For the very first time this year, the Children’s Rights Award, sponsored by UNICEF UK, was judged by a panel of young people aged between 16 and 20. The panel awarded the prize to a program in Channel 4’s Dispatches strand, entitled “Saving Africa’s Witch Children”. The program brings home the plight of children in some of the most impoverished parts of Nigeria, where thousands of them are being branded as witches and punished for disasters, famine and death.

at the awards ceremony L to R: Jonathan Miller, Issa Amro, Oren Yakobovich, Trudie Styler, Joe Berlinger

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