Fighting abuse using covert video: A chat with Videre’s Oren Yakobovich

Videre's Oren Yakovobich holds one of the tiny video cameras they use to document human rights abuses. Credit: Gabriel Diamond, SKoll Foundation

For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we’re talking with Oren Yakobovich, CEO and co-founder of an organization based in London called Videre that trains and supports nearly 600 activists in the incredibly important but dangerous task of documenting and reporting on human rights violations, violence or other abuses perpetuated by those in power against vulnerable people and communities around the world.

The organization’s full name is Videre est Credere, Latin for ‘seeing is believing,’ and it works by secretly training and equipping activists with tiny video cameras, special phones and other digital technologies to record episodes of abuse by police, militias, government officials or others misusing their power. See that shirt button? It’s actually a tiny video camera. That innocuous-looking backpack? Also a recording device. Many of the video clips the public sees in the news media of illicit crackdowns or violent abuses are actually produced by Videre activists – usually with no credit due to the organization’s desire to protect its sources and keep a low profile.

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Humanosphere’s Tom Paulson interviewed Yakobovich, an Israeli who years ago was jailed for refusing, as a soldier, to follow orders during an enforcement action against Palestinians. Paulson met Yakobovich at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford this year. He and Videre, which was co-founded in 2008 with Israeli film director Uri Fruchtmann, were honored by the Skoll Foundation for their innovative and courageous work exposing human rights abuses. It’s an amazing story; as Paulson said: “Somebody ought to make a movie….”

As always, before we talk to Yakobovich, Paulson and I talk over some of the news highlights in the Humanosphere beginning with the use of a new vaccine against dengue (aka ‘breakbone fever”) which is rapidly spreading worldwide thanks to the same species of mosquito that carries Zika and Chikungunya. Humanosphere’s Lisa Nikolau notes that some are questioning whether this vaccine – which seems to work best against mild dengue only – may not be the best strategy for curbing this disease. Paulson added that recent findings indicating antibodies to dengue may actually increase the risk of Zika infection only add to the need to consider the pros and cons of this new vaccine.

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We also note Tom Murphy’s report on USAID suspending tens of millions of dollars in aid funding to Syrian refugees due to reports of corruption such as kickback payments, bid-rigging and bribery. As the story says, the problem stems in part from the chaotic nature of trying to assist Syrians, with many NGOs hiring independent contractors or vendors to carry out the work on the ground. We also note the threat of another worsening refugee crisis, for mostly Somalis in Dadaab, as the Kenyan government says it intends to close what has become the world’s largest refugee encampment that has existed for decades.

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About Author

Imana Gunawan

Imana Gunawan is Humanosphere's social media manager and podcast producer. A University of Washington graduate in journalism and dance, Imana's interests include underrepresented communities, the intersection between politics and culture, global-local issues and the arts. She can be reached at @imanafg on Twitter or imana@humanosphere.org