Peter Gabriel opens his talk speaking about an incident in his childhood where he was sexually abused by other schoolboys. When he met a Chilean woman years later who talked about being tortured, this was the only experience he had to connect it to – his own experience of pain, shame and humiliation.
When Bono asked Peter Gabriel to get involved with Amnesty International’s Human Rights tours, he did, and had the experience to meet thousands of human rights activists who’d been detained, threatened and tortured. He believes that the most terrible thing that happens to people is when you are tortured, suffer, and then have your story denied, buried and forgotten.
When a camera’s around, it’s harder to bury these stories, as Rodney King so effectively reminded us. The power of the camera led Gabriel to help start Witness, an NGO which gives cameras to activists around the world to help them tell their stories. Witness began in 1992 and has distributed cameras to 60 countries.
The stories that get recorded are extraordinary and powerful. He shows us a bit of the documentary “Between Two Fires”, which shows the plight of displaced people in Northern Uganda, made homeless by the civil war with the Lord’s Resistance Army. Witnesses speak to the camera about the torture they’ve experienced both from Joseph Kony and from the Ugandan army.
Technology has been a major factor in making Witness possible – inexpensive DV cameras are one of the major enabling factors which allowed Witness to come into being. Now video cameras on cellphones may make it increasingly possible for anyone, anywhere in the world – perhaps using technology like weblogs – to share these stories.