Risk Management

Video‐making and distribution can introduce significant new risks to vulnerable participants and communities, and can intensify other risks.

Risk is defined as:

  • exposure to danger
  • the possibility of something unpleasant or unwelcome happening
  • the possibility of harm as a result of the initiative’s actions.

Risk includes:

  • Threat — anything, anyone or any event that can cause a negative effect
  • Vulnerability — a flaw or a weakness that can make the threat a reality, or the likelihood that a threat will happen
  • Impact — (in this context) the severity of the negative effect
  • Capacity — existing strengths that will allow you to minimise the chances of the threat happening.

The risks vary according to context and objectives, but they may be caused by not speaking to participants about options to remain anonymous, or by not planning for the safe storage of footage, or by sending or receiving digital files.

Your initiative may also cause reputational risk to subjects, or the risk of rejection from a community if goals and expectations are not communicated widely. Conversely, if you’re making your goals, strategies and processes open to everyone, you may be opening yourself and your involved community up to risk too.

In high-risk situations, you must develop a coherentclear and carefully considered risk management plan to minimise dangers to yourself, your team, the communities you work in, and everyone involved in your initiative. You will also need to balance the need for transparency with the need for security.

At the very least, you should ensure you don’t further complicate the issue you are seeking to address with your video initiative.

Understanding and Assessing Your Initiative’s Risk

The first step in Risk Management is understanding the risks of making your initiative. Here are some of the risks you might take when you open up about your initiative too much or not enough:

  • Exposing stories and perspectives that are marginalised or hidden may shift power dynamics within communities and societies.
  • Working with under-represented communities may cause them to face increased discrimination and prejudice by more dominant groups.
  • Capturing stories and struggles may re-traumatisetraumatise again or anew survivors and victims of human rights abuses.
  • Working with subjects who should remain anonymous may expose their identity and risk their privacy and security.

It’s important to revisit these risk areas throughout your initiative to keep your assessment current and to better ensure that no harm can come to you and the people involved.

Risk Area
Assessment
Responses
Risk Factor
Your Video What and who are you exposing in your video? The specific issue you are exposing and who is shown in your video. Issue dependent. In order to determine the risk factor, you will need the context of the issue.
Will the perpetrators/ violators/ oppressors of the social injustice be clearly identified and named? Yes, named clearly/ No, not named at all/No, not named but referred to. Risk factor increases the more you specifically identify the perpetrators/ violators/ oppressors.
Will they be able to take any action against you? Yes/No If yes, high risk. If no, lower risk.
What kinds of actions will they be able to take against you, people in the video or affiliated communities? List what actions they could take against you. Possible answers: legal, harassment, physical violence, verbal threats. Determining the risk factor depends on your judgement. The more physically violent the action, the higher the risk factor. The more actions they can take, the higher the risk.
Are there interests that directly oppose what you are exposing? Yes/No Yes, higher risk. If no, lower.
Which groups can take action against your video? Groups, organisations and institutions inside or outside the community who will oppose your video and can take action against you. The more groups or sectors you list, the higher the risk.
What actions can they take to stop your video from being produced or screened? List what actions they can take against you. Possible answers: legal, harassment, physical violence, verbal threats, starting rumours. Determining the risk factor here depends on your judgement. The more physically violent the action, the higher the risk factor. The more actions they can take, the higher the risk.
Your location Do you need permission to capture footage in that location? Yes/No If it’s required, having permission minimises the risk. It may also be an act of courtesy. Note that depending on the cultural context, what looks like permission to you may be very different in the community you are working. If you don’t have permission, then you must take extra steps to manage risk to keep yourself and your team safe.
Do you have trusted contacts in that location to assist you? Yes/No Having trusted contacts in that location minimises the risk, especially if you don’t have permission to shoot in that location.
Will the groups who directly oppose your video be in that location? Yes/No Having the groups who are negatively impacted by your Video for Change initiative in the location, increases the risk.
The subjects What are the risks that they face? List the risks that your video subjects face as a result of the issue your video is about. The more risks you can list, the higher the risk factor. Engage them in identifying risks that you may not be aware of if you are not part of the group or community.
Do they still have contact with the perpetrators/ violators/ oppressors in your video? Yes/No If they still have contact, then the risks are higher.
What further harm will come to them if the groups who oppose your video see them in the video? List the possible negative impacts of the opposing groups seeing the subjects on the video.

Possible answers: legal, harassment, physical violence, verbal threats, rumours.

Determining the risk factor depends on your judgement. The more physically violent the action, the higher the risk factor. The more actions they can take, the higher the risk.
Are the subjects in your video already activists in the issues that you are tackling? Yes/No If they are already activists, they might be more aware of their risks inherent in the issue, and therefore the risk factor might be less for your initiative.
Your audience How will you present your video to your audience? List the ways in which you will distribute your video.

Possible answers are: private screenings, public screenings, online distribution and social media.

List as many as you can.

Note that the more ways you present your video, the more public your video becomes — you will have to consider the risk factors for each way.

Note that high levels of publicity may also help protect you.

Will the groups/people who are responsible for the social injustice in your video be able to watch your video? Yes/No If it’s likely they will see the video, then the risk factor increases.
What kind of action can they take against you, your team and the people in your video? List the possible negative impacts of the opposing groups seeing the subjects on the video.

Possible answers: legal, harassment, physical violence, verbal threats, rumours.

The more actions that they can take, the higher the risk factor.

Taking Action

You have different options in addressing your identified risk, and if other people are sharing the risk, you should involve them in addressing it:

  • You can accept the risk because its consequences are minimal.
  • You can accept the risk even though it is great, because you decide the benefit to pursuing the issue is more important.
  • You can reduce the risk by working on threats, vulnerabilities and capacities.
  • You can share the risk by working with other people in the community that are supportive of your initiative.
  • You can choose to avoid the risk by stopping your activities or changing your approach to reduce potential threats.

Determining your risk will depend on the context of your initiative. So will the options to address them.

Your tactics will also change over time, so it’s important to consistently assess your risks throughout the duration of your initiative. This impact story from B’Tselem illustrates the difficulties you can expect when making risk assessments in volatile environments.

Impact Story: B’Tselem Camera Project

Title: B’Tselem and the Impact of video in turbulent environments

Location: Israel, occupied territories

Issue: Human rights, military violence

Aim/purpose of the video: To bring to justice a soldier who murdered a Palestinian activist.

Organisation: B’Tselem

Featured methodologies: Witness Video, Video for Advocacy

Video length: 3 mins.

Year: 2016

B’Tselem, founded in 1989, is the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. It uses video documentation to expose human rights violations and the daily reality under Israel’s military occupation.

In 2007, B’Tselem started its Camera Project in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which gave legal and technical training to Palestinian volunteers and equipped them with cameras. Over the years, the volunteers’ footage has helped B’Tselem expose the violent nature of Israel’s control and advocate for an end to the occupation.

Film Background

One of the volunteers, Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, lives in Hebron, a Palestinian city where about 800 Israeli settlers live in the midst of its Palestinian population. This reality creates constant friction between the local population and the Jewish settlers and Israeli security forces.

On March 24, 2016 Abu Shamsiyeh documented an Israeli soldier extrajudicially killing a Palestinian who had carried out a knife attack and was lying incapacitated on the road for 11 minutes after being shot and injured by Israeli soldiers.

After verifying the footage was real and seeking the consent from the volunteer and the victim’s family members, B’Tselem published the video, which immediately created a media storm both in Israel and abroad.

It is extremely rare for Israeli security forces personnel to be indicted for offences committed against Palestinians, but the clear cut video left Israeli authorities with no other option.

The media storm continued for many months while the highly unusual trial took place. The soldier, Elor Azaria, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment. He was released after serving nine months.

Risks and Impacts

For Abu Shamsiyeh there were consequences as well. He and his family have suffered from violence and harassment, a common fact of life in Hebron’s old city centre. After shooting the viral video, Abu Shamsiyeh received death threats with increasing frequency.

When he tried to file a complaint with the Israeli police officers in Hebron, the officers threatened him with arrest. B’Tselem had to temporarily relocate Abu Shamsiyeh and his family to a different area at times when tensions were especially high.

The discourse in Israel about the trial, where large segments of the population sympathised with the shooter, strengthened existing tendencies in Israeli politics to persecute human rights groups and activists.

B’Tselem has been accused of provocation, with some politicians claiming they are purposely setting up incidents in order to film them.

A draft law was recently introduced, seeking to forbid the documentation of Israeli security forces altogether. Whether the draft law will be formally introduced still remains to be seen, but the proposal is a testament to the effectiveness of video documentation.

International attention on the video contributed to increased exposure of other materials by B’Tselem, which also shed light on the daily violent routine of the occupation. Before March 2016, the Youtube channel of B’Tselem received around 20,000 viewers on a monthly basis. In 2017, this increased to around 500,000 viewers on a monthly basis.

But in the aftermath of Abu Shamsiyeh’s video, B’Tselem has become even more aware of the importance of the environment in which a film is published.

Ehab Tarabieh, B’Tselem’s video department director, explains that if you want to use video to document and publicise human rights offences you “must understand the law of the region you are working in”.

In some cases, the justice system forms the only way a human rights organisation can protect its volunteers or other community members. Therefore connections with lawyers or people that understand the law are vital components within risk management.

This B’Tselem’s case study illustrates that the political and legal environment can greatly affect the impact of a video and that one should be prepared to face these risks. Using video can also cause unexpected changes in this environment, such as the potential new law that forbids filming any Israeli soldier.

The filmmaker and his family have returned home safely after hiding. Abu Shamsiyeh has become an even more active volunteer of B’Tselem and continuous to capture footage of life inside the Occupied Territories.

Risk Management and Informed Consent

Informed consent is a key ethical and legal principle for any activist, citizen journalist and media-maker seeking to create positive social change.

It ensures the safety, security and dignity of participants and interviewees, such as survivors of human rights violations or those suffering from social injustice, so they don’t suffer further abuse or violation or become re-victimised as a result.

We focus heavily on informed consent because it is such a critical element in an ethical practice of Video for Change. We emphasise an idea of informed consent that is not about paperwork or signing-off on a document but about an individual understanding of the risks and benefits of appearing on video and making an informed decision on whether to do that and what safeguards they need (for example, blurring someone’s face, no identifying name). In a digital world, anyone’s image or words can be copied, shared and seen. One good starting point is to begin with the ‘worst case scenario’ of who might see the video — which is quite likely if the images have reach and impact — and then discuss consent and protection on this basis – Sam Gregory, WITNESS

It’s necessary to conduct a risk assessment of your Video for Change initiative, so that you’ll be able to clearly inform those who appear in your video (or its credits) of the potential negative consequences of their participation.

What is Informed Consent?

Informed consent is the process of ensuring that a person identified in a video fully understands the purpose and intended use of the recording, as well as any unintended consequences of their participation.

With this information, the person must voluntarily and without external pressure give his or her permission to be identified and for the recording to be used. That decision is not necessarily permanent. Someone who grants consent may revoke the decision due to increased security risks. It is important to respect the fact an individual’s decision around consent may evolve over time.

There are four main elements to informed consent:

Disclosure — The use and purpose of an interview or capturing of image must be fully explained. This helps protect the interviewee’s safety and maintains an honest relationship between interviewer and interviewee.

Voluntariness — The interviewee must voluntarily give their permission for the interview to be used and express whether he or she is willing to be identified by name.

Comprehension The interviewee, subject or participant must fully comprehend the implications of the interview and the intended distribution, including potential consequences of online distribution. They have the right to revoke their permission for future use of the footage — however, ensure they understand it’s not possible to permanently remove materials from the internet. Provide an example of a worst-case scenario.

Competence — The interviewee must be able to comprehend the likely or possible implications of his or her participation. This is an especially important issue with special populations (e.g., children, people with mental disabilities, people who have suffered significant recent trauma).

Questions to ask when considering informed consent during planning

  • Is the participating individual able to give informed consent? Are there barriers to consent such as age or competency?
  • If so, has the participating individual given informed consent?
  • Has he/she signed a consent form? Or if not using a consent form, are there other records or evidence of consent?
  • Will the initiative aims, processes and outcomes change over time? If so, will there be a need to seek consent again?
  • Does the individual understand that s/he may be identified?
  • Does the individual understand that s/he is giving consent that their image may be exhibited to the public in different domains and forms?
Case Study: InformAction

Location: Kenya

Issue: Female survivors from different tribes meet and share their stories of the extreme violence that occurred in Kenya after the 2008 elections.

Aim/purpose of the video: Raise awareness of the unnecessary violence inflicted on women from different tribes in Kenya.

Organisation: InformAction

Video length: 3 mins.

Year: 2010

In this interview we are confronted with the stories of Mary and Dorothy, two female victims of the extreme violent clashes that broke out between different ethnic groups in Kenya straight after the 2008 elections. Viewers learn about the atrocities that happened and the enormous inner strength of these women. Members of their own respective tribes were responsible for inflicting harm upon the other.

Staging and recording a sensitive interview like these requires a lot of preparation. Mary and Dorothy were briefed and informed beforehand, and both women consciously decided to participate in both the filming and the community screenings of their video afterwards. 

This video by Video4Change network member InformAction is a good example of a situation in which obtaining informed consent is vital. It also shows that by obtaining consent from those involved, they can become active participants in a Video for Change initiative. This is exactly why Video for Change initiatives actively try to seek informed consent from their participants.

Research and Planning