Winner, Interactive 2023


In 1992, one year after the world witnessed the civilian video recording of L.A. police brutality against Rodney King, the organization WITNESS was co-founded by musician and activist Peter Gabriel, the Reebok Foundation, and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights on the prescient premise that ordinary people using video to expose human rights violations could influence policy and create change, as well as save lives. For over three decades, WITNESS has led a global movement to help people harness video and emergent technologies as tools to protect and defend human rights.

In their first decade, WITNESS provided video equipment and training to a broad range of activists – including those fighting for the rights of women in Afghanistan, forcibly disappeared youth in India, and Indigenous peoples in the Philippines, among many others. But WITNESS recognized early on that to be effective, it would take more than simply putting cameras into the hands of people, creating, as well, online platforms, mobile apps, media labs, and instructional guides in a much broader effort to train, educate, and provide resources to human rights activists worldwide. Today, this online resource library offers instruction to millions of people about how to shoot, edit, preserve and distribute human rights video for maximum impact, much of which is now available in 24 languages. 

The impact of this work has been immense, including results such as convicting a warlord at the International Criminal Court; exposing sectarian violence, sex trafficking, and forced evictions; and establishing legal protections for some of the world’s most vulnerable people, from trash pickers in Delhi to elderly Americans at risk of financial, emotional, and physical abuse. 

As technology has evolved, so has WITNESS. From encryption to verification, live streaming to archiving, WITNESS supports local communities in using technologies ethically, safely, and effectively.  With emerging technologies such as deepfakes, synthetic media, and generative Al, citizens’ ability to trust media content is challenged even more. WITNESS is one of the most important organizations in assessing and addressing these dangerous threats to media that is taken to constitute “truth.” The organization has actively documented rights violations in specific regional conflicts, as well as offered recommendations to governments, NGOs, and international bodies through public hearings, forums and talks, policy briefs, and congressional testimony.

For tirelessly championing the power of emergent media technologies in defense of human rights around the world, WITNESS wins the first ever Peabody Global Impact Award.