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“Shooting Back” Project Empowers Palestinian Citizen Journalism

Israeli Human Rights Organization, B’Tselem, has generated a pervasive discussion on human rights violations in Israel through its compelling video advocacy project, “Shooting Back.” Launched in January 2007, the project provided Palestinians living in high-conflict areas with video cameras in order to capture, expose, and “seek redress for” human rights violations in the Occupied Territories. Since then, Shooting Back has empowered Palestinians through citizen journalism, combining the forces of two powerful digital technologies, the video camera and the Internet. The project demonstrates how the video camera is not only a useful tool for documentation and advocacy, but has also become an invaluable source of protection for Palestinians.

The Hub detailed that the project’s videos, which include images of Israeli settlers attacking shepherds with baseball bats, a Palestinian detainee being blindfolded and shot at close range by an Israeli soldier, and Jewish-Israeli settlers harassing their Palestinian neighbors, have “sparked public debate and promoted accountability in Israel.” B’Tselem’s Director of Video, Oren Yakobovich, told Democracy Now, “It’s giving power… And what I hope to achieve, (is) a feeling that everything is being filmed, nothing is being done in the dark.” As a result, the Israeli Defense Force decided to increase their presence along settlements to deter attacks on Palestinians, Haaretz reported. Diala Shamas of B’Tselem told the Guardian, “The footage not only has evidential value. It also has had a remarkable value in terms of advocacy and campaigning.”

By filming human rights violations which the mainstream media often fails to expose, Shooting Back has triggered a critical discourse surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, serving as a successful example of how grassroots groups are effectively monitoring authority figures using technology, what Steve Mann defined as “sousveillance.” Just as camera phones have become a valuable device worldwide, especially in exposing and preventing potential police abuse of protestors, video cameras have become a vital defense for Palestinians with no other means of protection against Israeli settler and military attacks. As Yakobovich explained, “The cameras have above all a deterrent effect; they protect Palestinians. They also enable the public to see incidents which otherwise are invisible and whose veracity can always be challenged.”

Due to its effectiveness, this form of citizen journalism has become a pivotal tool for individuals and NGOs seeking to document and broadcast human rights violations. Open Source Media outlets such as The Hub and YouTube’s Citizen News channel, have empowered citizens by not only giving them the media tools to engage in sousveillance, but more importantly, an online platform from which to share their concerns with the global community.

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