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.
- 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.
|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.|
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.
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.
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?