Documenting Human Rights Violations in Challenging Environments

Now that you have learned the basics of how to use video, audio and photographs to capture information about your chosen topic, let us go over some safety tips. It is very important to think ahead to ensure the safety of those you are filming, recording, or photographing. Each time you decide to collect information using these methods, it is essential to develop a safety and security plan. This plan should outline a step-by-step process for how you will collect this information, an assessment of possible risks to you and to your subjects, and a plan for how you will react to each of these risks.

Video Clip Tips

For more on how to blur faces on video clips, see the following two clips:

Protecting the identity of your subjects during interviews

Often people you interview may not want their names or faces publicized. The information they are revealing may be sensitive and publicizing their identity may put them in danger. If this is the case with an individual you are interviewing, there are many ways you can conceal your subject’s identity, including:

  • Filming the subject’s hands instead of his/her face when they speak (but make sure not to film any identifiable marks such as tattoos or scars);
  • Having the subject wrap his/her face in a scarf;
  • Adjusting the focus of your lens to obscure and blur the image;
  • Showing an outline of the person, blacking out their features; and,
  • Having the subject answer interview questions off camera/recorder – someone else can read the transcript of their interview so that the subject’s voice is not identifiable

If you are interviewing someone at their own home or if they do not want their location disclosed, make sure you do not capture any landmarks or other identifiable buildings that are traceable.

Make a Copy

After you record an audio or video clip or use a digital camera, remove the media card and give it to friend for safe keeping or hide it in a safe place. Replace with an empty card – this way, if your device is confiscated, you will still have access to some of your information.

Informed Consent

Always explain how you plan to use the information you are collecting from your subjects. The interviewee should know if the footage will be shared, and with whom. Make sure you get written or verbal consent BEFORE recording, filming or photographing people.