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WITNESS Launches Media Archive

By Tamara Krinsky

WITNESS, the nonprofit human rights organization conceived by musician and activist Peter Gabriel to empower human rights defenders to use video for human rights advocacy, recently launched the WITNESS Media Archive, dedicated to the acquisition, preservation and licensing of rare and politically sensitive media.

The archive is comprised of over 2,000 hours of video in varying formats, with content ranging from original raw footage to documentary productions. The majority of the collection is from groups with which Witness has partnered, such as Human Rights Focus, which works with displaced people in Uganda; the American Friends Service Committee; and Burma Issues, which works with oppressed and displaced ethnic communities in Burma and Thailand. WITNESS and its partners own the footage and share any revenue that results from its licensing.

The first stop for those interested in utilizing footage from the archive is The comprehensive site features a searchable database that contains a portion of the collection, as well as an online request form in case you can't find what you're looking for. New footage is added to the collection almost every week. Licensing fees are on a sliding scale system, based on factors such as intended usage, distribution plan and the licensing period.

Recent projects for which footage from the archive has been licensed include a documentary about Haiti and Aristide; a CBC project on Burma ; and an independent documentary about the conflict in Sierra Leone.

Those interested in contributing footage to the archive should contact Grace Lile at 718.783.2000, ext. 313. An archive donor application and guidelines can also be found online. Due to finite resources, WITNESS is selective in its acceptance of material. The staff evaluates footage based on content, quality and how well it fits into the collection as a whole.