Tom Porteous – Methods and Ethics of Human Rights Research

Tom’s been at human rights watch
for over 10 years he brings a lot of experience in the world of diplomacy, UN
peacekeeping both in Somalia and Liberia as well as work as a journalist which is
pretty exciting to me, that’s the field that I came from, And through that he was working
with the Guardian the BBC and then several local outlets throughout the
MENA region and so diverse experience all of which he [indiscernible] Human
Rights Watch I’m gonna let him introduce the organization but first I just want
to give a shout out to a Amy Rowe and Jena Maya, Amy is on the board of Human Rights Watch, and Jena heads the Silicon Valley Office. And we work
closely together so definitely feel free to follow up with questions to any of us.
so I’ll let Tom kick it off. [Tom] Thanks so much Jessie and I was also gonna just nod to my
colleagues and friends sitting behind everyone not quite sure why. It’s
great to have such such committed support in in Silicon Valley’s so it’s a
really important source of funding but also of energy for the Human Rights
Watch thanks. So I thought I’d– I wrote some notes on the back of an envelope then I
ended up on two sides of the envelope, but I thought I’d start off with just a brief
introduction to human rights watch because I think it’s useful context
for you know then digging a bit deeper to talk about our methodology and some
of the sort of ethical dilemmas of Human Rights Watch’s you know, how human rights watch
collects its material. So you know Human Rights Watch we often
think of as a research organization and I work on the research side I’m the
deputy director of our program office which means effectively that I oversee
five of our research programs or divisions namely the Middle East and
North Africa, Europe and Central Asia, women’s rights, refugees, and the arms
division. And we are a research organization. Our work is based on our
research but we are more than a research organization, we are a change
organization. What we seek to do is to change bad situations and make
them better. So the principle is that we we go out in the field and we do you
know firsthand research on human rights abuses all over the world, we worked at
about 90 countries, and and then we use the research as the basis for media and
advocacy work which is aimed at changing the situation so although we are a
research organization the point of it is to secure change that’s what we’re after
that’s what all of us wake up every morning hoping to do,
to end human rights crises, to mitigate human rights abuses, and so on. And we
work as I’ve indicated in the description of my particular
responsibilities we work both regionally that is we have country researchers
working on about 90 countries around the world but we also work thematically.
So besides women’s right, refugees program, the arms program which I oversee
we also have a number of other thematic programs like Children’s Rights Division, we
do work on a business and human rights we’re just about to start a new program
on the environment of Human Rights, we have an international justice program
and a number of other thematic areas. But besides our researchers in
order to effect change we also have a group of people we call advocates who
are based in capitals around the world where we think there is a chance of
making a difference so we have advocates in New York at the United Nations, we
have advocates in Geneva which is where the Human Rights branches of the United
Nations are based, we have advocates in Washington DC, in Brussels, in the key
European capitals London, Paris, Berlin, and increasingly we’re working in areas
of regional influence like Brazil, South Africa, Japan, and so on,
where we have full-time advocates who you know whose daily job is to go
out and cultivate relations with government officials and then use the
research that is coming in from our research divisions to effect change.
And just to give a you know very quick example of one of the areas where we’ve
I think had an impact just in the last year or so; Burundi, a very small
country in Africa, where there has been you know a long history of
ethnically based abuses which is right next to Rwanda which obviously had in
1994 the terrible genocide. Burundi has a similar ethnic makeup and is often you
know being threatened by genocide. Our researcher in Burundi we have a full
time researcher working on Burundi started to notice that things were going
from you know mediocre to bad from bad to worse people studied turning up
dead on the side of streets and so on this is a country where no newspaper
has a government correspondent obviously because of the media crisis they can’t
afford it they didn’t have correspondents covering Africa these
days a lot of newspapers and so it really was Human Rights Watch who blew
the whistle and started to write about what was going on and analyze what the
problem was what the political context was but also to make recommendations and
within within weeks of us really kind of started to focus on this on this crisis
this incipient crisis we we had you know spoken at the United Nations
Security Council and we’d actually persuaded the United Nations Security
Council to get up and and fly to bujumbura the capital of Burundi, and
really put the government on notice that they were being watched and also we
start I feel that we helped to start the process of you know a peacekeeping
operation which still has to be approved but which hopefully will will
will be deployed at some point in the future so it’s still early days but and
it’s also difficult to prove a negative but i think that unless we had done this
work things would have spiraled very quickly and it’s just an example of the
sort of impact that we can have using our research, which is powerful
stuff coming from the ground and then using our network of advocates in
capitals like the united nations like new york but also in Paris which has a
particular interest in Burundi to you know to really get people to sit up and
take notice and take action more importantly and you know if there’s time
we can talk about some other examples of impact but what I want you to do today
and I don’t want to me to be speaking the whole time is to is to talk a little
bit about our methodology. Hands up anyone who’s read a Human
Rights Watch report, good, have you read the methodology section in human rights
report probably fewer fewer of you would have read the methodology section report.
And it’s not really necessarily there to be read and I think there are a few
people who read human rights watch reports cover to cover we have
press releases which help you to kind of avoid having to do that and summarize it
as well. But the methodology section of a report is is very important. Why do you
think anyone got an idea why we need to to be clear about what our methodology
is? Anyone want to have a stab at answering that question? I told you I
would be asking you to participate. Why do we need a methodology section in a
human rights report? Ya? [Off screen] potentially to avoid being seen as
politically targeting a certain regime, prove that you did the right job. [Tom] right exactly I mean we need to be I think I think there
are two reasons really one is transparency right we need to be
transparent about how we went about collecting material for a report and
secondly it’s about integrity it’s about showing that our methodology is such
that our report ends up being accurate but also that our research we collected
our research we went about doing our research you know in a manner that was
ethical. And what do I mean by that? We talked to people in the
course of gathering the material for Human Rights Watch report
we often talk to people who are in a very precarious state right. Often they
may have been victims of torture or sexual violence but also there may be
people who by talking to human rights watch are putting themselves at risk right.
And we need to show that we have done due diligence in
conducting an interview with someone who is at risk through talking to human
rights watch that we’re not putting them at a greater risk right that we are
protecting their security as far as possible right. And that’s really what
the methodology section is about it’s about transparency it’s about integrity
it’s about showing how and why we are accurate and showing how and why we have
taken all precautions not to put people who we have spoken to at risk. Let me
just give you an example I mean I can’t go into details because it’s a it’s not
something for the public domain but quite recently Human Rights Watch a
Human Rights Watch researcher was asked to give a witness testimony at a
International Criminal Tribunal specifically about our methodology and
was asked as a string of extremely hostile questions by the counsel for the
defence of the person who was on trial for war crimes and the aim of the
defense counsel was to try to persuade the court that our methodology was
deeply dodgy and that we were partisan. And through being able to answer the
questions about these very detailed and difficult questions about methodology we
were able to avoid that. So what kinds of information do we need to put into a
section on methodology and I mean it’s very basic I mean first of first of all
you know we need to say where we did the research right, and when we did it, we also
need to talk about you know who did the research, who the interviewers were. Now
the obvious answer is that you know the Human Rights Watch researcher did
the interview but it may be actually a bit more complicated than that right we
may have several researchers working on a particular project one of the
researchers might be a consultant we need to be upfront about that we may
also have used interpreters or translators that can often be actually
rather important and was one of the issues that the defense counsel in this
case this war crimes case that i mentioned raised. If we use translators
we need to make sure that those translators are properly trained that
they’re not you know asking questions themselves that they just asked exactly
the question that the researcher puts to the interviewee. We need to be clear
about that as far as possible here in our methodology even if it doesn’t get
into the methodology section of the report itself we need to be clear
ourselves that our methodology is unimpeachable. Another important thing we
talk about the interviewees you know how many interviewees do we interview
for a particular report is often a crucial question we did a report a
couple of years ago about– in fact by a former alumnus of Stanford– about the
massacre in Cairo after the the coup d’état by the military that
overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood government. We did a report on the
massacre in which upwards of 800 people were killed in one day in a suburb of
Cairo which was the site if you remember when you read the news of a massive
protest by the Muslim Brotherhood and we did their research for that report over
a year, in fact we published a report on the anniversary in the first anniversary of
the the massacre how many people do you think we interviewed for that report
anyone want to guess? have a go… 20? 30? how many people? we interviewed 200 people
for that report. 200 and most of them were people who have actually been at
the massacre site that’s a lot of people to interview and it’s important to say
that we you know in the methodology it actually strengthens the credibility of
the report and our claims that our report is accurate if we say that we
interviewed so many people. I don’t know if any of you has read Mark Block “The Historians
Craft” great French historian who was killed by the Gestapo in 1943, and wrote his last book while he would actually on the run in the
resistance an extraordinary man. He wrote the historians craft reflecting on the
job of the historian and there’s a wonderful passage in which he talks
about Napoleon and the battle of Austerlitz. He says well you know if you
ask Napoleon what happened at the battle of Austerlitz is he going to be able to
give you a good account of what happened? I mean he’s maybe standing there on a
hill on his horse but he doesn’t have a view of the whole the whole battle you
know. You can only put together a picture of what happened in a battle or in a
massacre like this one which was over a larger area 800 people in one day if you
talk to people from all different perspectives. And you also need to as
far as possible talk to people from you know opposing views so try to talk as
well to the security forces as well as the victims, which is what we sought to
do so it’s very important in your methodology to talk about how many
people you’ve spoken to and what the different perspectives were. Another important aspect of you know our
methodology is to be upfront about limitations that we have on our ability
to conduct research into a particular issue. We have not been able to enter
Syria for the last two years at least and yet we produce a steady stream of
press releases on Syria. How do we do that? Anyone want to give a guess? How do
we do it? How do you do research in a country to which you don’t have access? [Offscreen] Refugee accounts. [Tom] Refugee accounts, good
anyone else got any other ideas? Yep. Sorry? [Offscreen] Field Journalists and reporters. [Tom] Yes I mean to some extent
if we use secondary sources then we need to be upfront about the fact
that we’re doing that and what the perspective of those people are yes. And
anything else? [Offscreen] informants inside. [Tom] Informants inside, whom we reach how? [Offscreen] Skype. [Tom] Skype, [laughter] well yes no
I mean Whatsapp, which is now encrypted from one end to another so
actually probably safer than skype. Cellphone. And that poses additional
ethical considerations why– before I get into that just there’s one other, there
are several other ways in fact in which one can do research even when
one doesn’t have access, and one of them is satellite imagery which we’ve been
using increasingly in Human Rights Watch. And in fact we’re having a meeting
tomorrow to talk about the ethics of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles– drones
in doing human rights research. And I want to talk about that in detail
actually later. But on the issue of doing remote
interviews, on the telephone or on Skype. So what are the problems with
doing that do you imagine? What kinds of– you’re a human rights researcher,
normally you go into the field you can look someone in the eye, get their
account of an abuse that they suffered themselves or that they witnessed, what
are the problems with interviewing someone on Whatsapp, or on the phone?
Yep. [Offscreen] Beyond technical issues you’ll only have access to people who have access to
that technology. [Tom] That’s one thing so it’s sort of there’s a selection
issue. But another thing is that you know when you can’t look someone in the eye
for you know it’s a fuzzy pixelated picture on your screen, it’s
actually harder to work out whether they’re telling you the truth or not. Right so you
know I think that when we do telephone interviews we need to be much more
careful about corroborating them. You know you need to get a larger number of
people describing the same event in order to have the sort of confidence
that you know that the picture that you’re painting through these different
testimonies and accounts is correct, right is accurate, is true, as far as
possible. Another problem with telephone
interviews or remote interviews is the whole issue of informed consent. So why
do we need informed consent when we are doing interviews with victims of abuses
or witnesses to abuses or anyone in fact for a Human Rights Watch report? What’s
what’s the significance of informed consent this is something that we talk
about a lot of human rights watch as the reviewer of many documents I often you
know come across you know– I go back to a researcher and say did you
actually get an informed consent from this person for this
interview? Why is that important? Yeah. [Offscreen] So they understand what’s happening with
the material that you’re taking in what you’re going to do with it. [Tom] Exactly exactly. And that’s
and why is that important? [Offscreen] well then I guess you can look back and if you can
even make references or if you need to follow up with questions you can always
do that I think it’s also important and people want to know who are the people that you
talk to. [Tom] Right, exactly. Good yeah no. I mean look one of the things that we
really are you know very careful about is not only the security of our staff but
the security of the people that we are interviewing right and the security of
you know people that we use to access the people that we interviewed. We
usually get to the interviewees through intermediaries of one kind or another
local NGOs or something like that so anyone who’s involved in that process in
a country like Syria or Iraq or South Sudan is you know at risk we have to
assume and often you know individuals themselves are best able, as long as
they’re sort of adults, they’re best able to assess the risk themselves right. We
also kind of have to assess the risk but they also you know that they’re part of
that. But in order to assess the risk they have to know who we are you know
who is human rights watch what are we going to do with the report what’s the
purpose of this report right. And that’s a very important part of the process of
securing informed consent now doing that in the field when you have you know a
controlled setting, hopefully you try and— we always try to do interviews with
people in private, right, in an enclosed setting, in a secure setting where people
feel comfortable. If you’re on whatsapp you have no idea what kind of situation
the person is in on the other end of the line, right. So it’s much more difficult to to
be you know sure that you are really getting informed consent from someone. so
you need to you know make the time if you like to what when you’re preparing
an interview remotely when you’re actually conducting the interview to
make sure that the interviewee is perfectly comfortable with the
arrangement that you’ve sort of got got into with them there are also sort of
special groups I guess which who pose more problems or more dilemmas if you
like than others when we interview them children obviously that’s one group
because here they make that they have reached an age of responsibility it’s
more difficult to get informed consent for a child so that there are issues
there that we need to work through victims of torture and sexual violence
there’s the risk of reform ‘it is a shin right when we talk to people who have
been through horrendous experience and there’s general medical evidence for
this there is a real risk that the process of revisiting these experiences
can cause retour Mertes a shin and our researchers are trained to notice
identify the signs of renormalization so that you know they can end the interview
if necessary start talking about something else it’s
very important when you’re dealing with people who have been through the
terrible trauma like this to keep checking in with them in the course of
an interview to check that they’re feeling okay about talking about all
this kind so it’s also important you know often we will interview people like
victims of sexual violence the the CD women who were captured and abducted by
by Isah V um when they came out some of them escaped when they came out they
were in northern Iraq in the Kurdish region of iraq where you know at the
time anyway there weren’t a great deal of services for psychosocial services
for people who were victims of this kind of horrendous treatment and so it was
not possible for us to say what we’re going to do this interview with you and
if you’re reformat eyes you know we will be able to refer you to you know
such-and-such bill the services didn’t exist and so you know we always tell our
researchers actually you know it may be that there are certain groups of people
or certain individuals who you just decide they may have a an amazingly
powerful story to tell which could be an extremely good way of doing the advocacy
that is required in order to bring change to this particular situation
right but nonetheless you take a decision you’re not going to interview
that person because of the risk to that of renormalization especially if in a
situation where there isn’t a possibility of referring that person to
you know psycho social services there’s this the kinds of dilemmas that a
researcher in the field with the help of you know pack up in in headquarters you
know that’s what we have to deal with all the time these kinds of dilemmas and
it’s very important that we actually do address those dilemmas in order to be
sure that our methodology is transparent is legitimate is has integrity has
ethical integrity because after all we’re a human rights organization and if
we don’t address these issues then our reputation is at stake our ability that
human rights watch to to do what we do to to go and talk to governments to be
in the media all the time to to affect change in these human rights crises
depends almost entirely on our reputation right a reputation for
integrity and our reputation for accuracy and we need to maintain that by
making sure that our methodology is impeccable right so we’re constantly
trying to deal with these dilemmas there are lots of other issues that go into
the method methodology reports of sections of our reports and if you’re
interested you could read you know some of our methodology sections just to sort
of follow up one of them actually is a good one to lead is in fact that the
report that i mentioned on the the massacre in rabaa square in cairo it’s a
it’s a very thorough impressive methodology section and it’s an it’s
worth it’s worth weeding one other important aspect of a methodology
section and our methodology is the importance of getting a response from
the government in question right so if we do a report on Isis abuses we know
there’s not much point writing to a beaut that to Isis saying dear mr.
Baghdadi you or people are doing this and we don’t do
that it’s a waste of time but if we’re talking about the Egyptian government or
the Burundian government or the Kenyan government or whatever we do have a
responsibility to write to the authorities concerned and give them
adequate time to respond to our findings right so we will write to them towards
the end of the process of researching a report when we’ve got the findings and
we’ve got the conclusions of our report I’ll put it all together in a letter and
will write to the relevant authorities and we’ll give them time to give us a
response and often they will give us a response and in fact when it comes to
business and human rights in we often write we we always write to the
businesses that we name in our in our human rights in our business and human
rights reports and in fact often because of that those communications we have
managed to secure impact and getting the companies you know two out of the abuse
business if you like before we’ve even published the report so I want to talk a
little bit now about you know some of the new technology and some of the sort
of ethical dilemmas that that poses and just to some introduce that a little
anecdote about this report that I keep coming back to they were bought on the
massacre in rubber square that there was a little element of that which was not
terribly important but we wanted to estimate how many people were in this
square at the time of the of the of the massacre and it’s notoriously difficult
to estimate numbers at big demonstrations or protests it’s always
very difficult and you get hugely widely ranging numbers depending on the sort of
political perspective of I was doing the estimate so you’re
pro-government demonstrations the government’s always saying it’s huge and
the opposite is a tiny number one and the other way around vice versa we
wanted to get a reasonably good estimate and so we found out that we that the
Muslim Brotherhood during you know at the end right at the end of the of the
demonstration just before the massacre took place they had been taking pictures
of the demonstrations or filming the construction using unmanned area aerial
the UAVs drugs and they gave us the footage and we were able to use this
footage to to estimate the number of people in that in that process it was a
protest that had been going on for a long time so there was a whole
encampment and you know people milling around and we managed to use that that
technology to which we had we did not launch the drone ourselves it was the
Muslim Brotherhood that had done it we use that to provide I think quite an
accurate and estimation of the numbers so I want to talk about you know just as
a sort of you know to end up with I just as a way of illustrating kind of some of
the ethical dilemmas I want to talk about you know should we shut Human
Rights Watch use unmanned aerial drones that are actually the subject of our
meeting tomorrow we haven’t we haven’t used we’ve used material that has been
provided to us that has been secured through the use of drones we haven’t
used it ourselves other NGOs are increase increasingly using this stuff
does this technology should Human Rights Watch use unmanned aerial vehicles and you know i mean i
think we you know one can talk a bit about you know what why why it would be
useful and what the risks are right that’s what we’re going to be talking
about tomorrow I think there are some really interesting uses that one can one
can come up with for drones you know obviously with cameras attached to them
I mean we’re using satellite imagery at the moment a lot to corroborate
basically to corroborate to provide greater credibility to accounts that
we’re getting from people on the ground unmanned aerial vehicle UAV s would be
very useful in doing that kind of work only better right but because first of
all if it’s cloudy you can’t take a picture from a satellite whereas with a
drone you can go under the under the clouds secondly the resolution from a
drone is orbit of images from drones obviously far better maybe 20 times
better than it is from aerial photographs you can also take video for
up to an hour at the moment you can get in and provide 3d sort of imaging of
urban landscapes which is very useful at the moment we believe that satellite
imagery vastly underestimates war damage anyone know why that might be anyone got
any idea why satellite imagery might underestimate war damage the answer is
that you get a very flat picture you don’t get you only see from from right
above you don’t see from the sides a lot of damage in urban warfare is done to to
the sides of buildings but also you know there may be a tree cover that you can’t
capture with what’s going on underneath the tree
obviously with a satellite imagery this kind of thing you can deal with with
Whitman when it comes to using drones you could we could use it to to do work
on the environment in fact already some NGOs have used drones to look at toxic
waste sites to look at the impact of industrial accidents you can do it you
can use drones to look at detention camps to look at mass graves we know
that in northern Syria there is a mass grave we don’t know very much about it
but it seems that this it’s in an area which has been controlled by various
different groups including the government Isis and various other rebel
groups and we believe that all of those groups have used this kind of cave as a
place just to dump bodies people that they’ve slaughtered we don’t know how
many people may be in how many bodies may be in this this is this cave but
what we do know is that if we had if we were able to launch a drone perhaps
across from across the border is in Turkey and fly it into the cave you
could get potentially images that could tell you a great deal about you know
this burial site the is absolutely out of the question for us to go visit
so you know the potential for the use of drones is absolutely enormous but of
course it does pose some pretty serious kind of ethical dilemmas but there are
legal problems potentially not that Human Rights Watch is obliged to obey or
international laws but we try to as far as possible if there’s no international
regulation of the use of drones yet there are privacy issues rightful and
Human Rights Watch is generally more rigorous about you know thinking about
privacy issues in publishing reports and photographs and so forth been the most
media there are also security issues I mean it could put us in danger although
it has a security of budget we don’t have to actually go to up these places
ourselves there are certainly security issues in you know wandering around with
drones in your pocket especially trying to get through checkpoints and things
like that you could be accused of being a spy and so on and so forth and you
know as a result of all this there are sort of reputational issues that need to
be thought through but the potential for the use of this technology is is
enormous we just need to be sure that you know I think as I hope I sort of
explained in you know earlier talking about methodology to be sure that if we
do use this technology we can use it in a way that is you know transparent that
we’re clear about you know what we’re doing and how we’re using it and use it
in a way that you know we can be confident that this has integrity we’re
not invading people’s privacy unduly we’re not putting people at risk it’s
not just ourselves that we might put at risk we could also be putting other
people risk inadvertently through the use of
this kind of technology so we got 15 so I was hoping that you would be more
forthcoming I tried to get you to interact some of you were better than
others but now it does 15 minutes left you can you can ask me any questions you
want whether about you know what I’ve been talking about or more generally
about the work of human rights watch you sleep a bit more about image selection
process please because the courts tend to have white gripping images however
they can very easily secure your perception via the disproportionate
representation of women and children but I’m just hoping if you could speak a bit
more about that mm-hmm should we take several oh yeah why would take like
three and then yeah okay do you want to do the paper yes when you’re forming a
methodology do you differentiate between informed consent and maple confuse the
latter dealing with power differentials Morgan right um images anyway any other questions yes
entering yeah I’m curious about depending on your profession because I
am slowly learning that consent berries if your storyteller a journalist like a
legal consultant and its really interesting for me how there are
certainly ways if you are let’s say a storyteller but not a journalist and you
can just show up with a microphone and there’s an applied consent and say I
don’t guess it need to sit down and make you repeat a phrase after me which is
really different from the concept that you were talking about and I guess in
your mind someone who has a more formal process for getting consent how do you
feel about the way that other people are equal to be more relaxed about it
because they are not yeah well I’ll start with that is I mean it sort of
it’s relevant to the other two questions you know I mean we do what we do because
because for the reasons that I’ve laid out you know we want to be transparent
we want to make sure that the people we talked to a safe we want to you know
preserve our integrity and and we don’t actually have a sort of uniform it’s
it’s it’s it’s not written consent sometimes we will get rich and concern
to you feel that it’s important to the heart and and it’s not just for people’s
stories not just for an interview that we want to get so we also get consent
for the use of people’s images right and you know we have a fairly high standard
I think compared to journalists for example I’ve worked in the media you
call up someone for an interview you know I worked on the BBC African service
covering wars in Liberia Sierra Leone so on we would often just try and call
anyone we could just to tell us what was going on in a particular day in a
particular place because we knew that there’s something bad going on and we we
just fuck them on straight on the air life nothing about informed consent or
anything like that and this is a BBC respectable music I think maybe BBC has
changed since then this is a long time ago but there was no thought about you
know or if there was it was hardly kind of conscience about you know the
security of the person that we were talking
it was just all implied with in Human Rights Watch I think partly because our
ability to do our works depend so much upon our reputation right our ability to
do what we get up every morning to do which is to end or mitigate given rights
abuse it depends on the integrity of our work that’s why we have a high bar I
can’t talk for others you know but we do we do try to have as high a bar as
possible and if I suspect that you know because of the way a particular press
release or a part of report has been written that there was less than good
enough informed consent then you know I’ll go and ask the researcher who did
the interview what was the informed consent in this particular case and and
if we feel that it wasn’t given then we’ll cut that bit out of the of the
report or press release when it comes to images you know I mean there are
different kinds of images that we use you know we most of our researchers are
not professional photographers although some of them very good and we will use
their work for more than just sort of documenting so like taking a note right
take pictures of someone’s wounds or you know of a fragment of a cluster munition
or something like that that might end up in a report it might not but it’s not
taken you know in any way in order to a sort of influence people in the way that
a good professional photographer will take a picture that is kind of
beautifully sort of framed and composed so so we have that kind of picture sort
of the workmen like sort of notetaking type photograph that a researcher Wilson
please could have collected in the course of their work then we do have the
we do actually buy photographs from you know Reuters or AP or Magnum any of the
photograph agencies in order to illustrate our reports put on the front
cover or whatever I think there are you know we often have long discussions you
know about whether a particular picture should go in for you know exactly the
reasons that you suggested is this too manipulative you know showing this child
you know so we do have those discussions and then and then that there are
obviously issues about informed consent and privacy and so forth I mean we have
a policy that we do not show pictures of children unless we absolutely have the
consent of you know their parent or guardian or others responsible for them
as well as the child themselves because often children can be part of that
discussion so we are you’ll often see pictures of children where you know you
can’t identify them just see them from the back which we will choose a other
law where the face has been blurred out and then this is your text as well right
we did a we had a report about the the chemical weapons attack in East gouta
outside of Baghdad outside of damascus by saddam hussein’s forces assets forces
sorry mixing up all these dictators and it was a it was a report that was a
rushed out and I wasn’t actually closely involved in it at the time I was away or
something but there was we ended up with a picture on the front cover that was
really gruesome it was very gruesome and there are still we still have debates
about whether that was the right decision to have taken some people feel
very strongly that we shouldn’t have done that it was a basically a picture
of these kids who were being killed by like gas it was a very very very
in-your-face gruesome photograph and several people in Human Rights Watch
things to think believe to this day that that was a mistake of we crossed a
certain line if you like and others said no we needed to we needed to be upfront
about the awfulness of this attack and its its
impact so we do have those debates I think it’s not easy always to take the
right decision or to reach agreement and then on this issue of informed consent
versus meaningful concerned I mean for us informed consent has to be meaningful
but in order to be informed if you like if it’s not meaningful then you know
it’s not worth having and that’s why it’s not just a question of ticking a
box it’s not just a question of someone signing a form it’s a discussion that
you have with everyone that you interview you know to explain who Human
Rights Watch is and what we’re going to do with the work and what the potential
risks are talking to human rights watch in any particular circumstances are and
it varies from one person to another from one context to another I think
that’s what i can say take two more questions sad is getting into it on the question
of drones it’s stressing that the question the ethical question isn’t
really should we be using drones but whose footage are we using because the
pragmatic issues that you highlighted seem to indicate that maybe while we
can’t use we don’t have access to drown sir we can’t employ them in the field we
might be able to use others footage and so when we use them other broads like
the Muslim Brotherhood’s images or other groups on the ground do you guys have
that discussion about well is this the right group to be contacting in the
context of the situation well you know I mean again it depends to answer like
that but you know I mean I mean first of all I’d I you know it’s at the moment
yes that is the question whether we use it or not because we’re not actually
collecting material through through drones ourselves but you know it really
is a real question whether we shouldn’t be getting into the drones business you
know and actually using these things launching them ourselves going to you
know southern Turkey launching a drone across the border into Syria it’s all
probably deeply illegal but you know according to national though these are
military areas you know from the Turkish bunch of you it could be could be very
risky as well but you know it’s a debate that’s worth having if there is a you
know a prize at the end of it going to be able to expose you know
terrible crimes that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to expose so but and
we are having that discussion we haven’t reached a decision yet in the meantime
yes the question is should we use the footage or not when it comes to and it
depends what the footage is off it depends it depends on the context you
know within the case of the rabaa massacre you know the muslim we already
have a very good idea that we had been visiting the project i visited the
protest you know I would I’ve been there a couple of weeks before the massacre
took place so several of our staff and researchers had been doing interviews in
so we had a good idea about how many people were in there I said we had a
sense of the perimeter of the thing and then we got hold of this footage through
the Muslim Brotherhood and you know and through our analysis of the footage that
we have we realize it was it was a good stuff it was just because it came from
it wasn’t brother it doesn’t matter didn’t mean that it was tainted right so
yes I mean but it meant it that may not always be the case it may be that your
guests getting footage from a certain source is problematic for our reputation
I wondered if you could close by talking about about professional pathways into
this sort of work and for students to understand this is one way to work and
you know dad this is work for an organization like
it’s watch but if the pathway through journalism is it through some of the
some sort of graduate degrees or credentials what skills do students need
what kinds of opportunities they need to be looking out for one min under
graduates and also sort of the new years after graduating to best position
themselves to come to work like this if that’s Greg what a great question and I
suppose the answer is first of all you have to be really committed you know
you’re not going to make a fortune I’m working the Human Rights Watch but it is
very rewarding and the I mean my own background was unusual i guess and i
came in at a late stage in my career so I mean and I went into journalism i
graduated from university and that is a way of Louie we do have people who come
from journalism but you know in terms of the sort of the more formal ways in
which people kind of generally young people start working the King awaits
much we have you know we have a small number of fellowships that we give each
year to outstanding students some of these are rather limited in the
criterion for the criteria for applying a rather limited there are two
fellowships one is you have to be a graduate of Columbia Law School the
other after their a graduate of New York University Law School so that’s kind of
not much good back there there are a couple of others which are you know open
to others that the guy who did our rubber report which I’ve ended up
talking a lot about today with the chiro Massacre report was actually from
Stanford I’ll mush ikea he joined Human Rights Watch as a fellow
I came with I mean I did I interviewed him for the fellowship he was great and
the only problem was he was just too great we couldn’t believe that anyone
could be so great and so some people things he seems a bit you know too good
to be true anyway he and he did a fantastic job fluent Arabic working for
a year in Cairo undercover when you know the Egyptian government was completely
guessed it did a great job and is it is actually joining us on stuff next year
in the world of Israel research israel-palestine researcher so the
feathers fellowships right about few and far between but definitely worth
applying for there’s internships that are you know we have many many
internships ranging from you know a few weeks to a few months and we have that
there are quite strict rules on what we give in tons to do so you won’t be given
administrative work we can’t give you a minister to work you have to give
interns substantive work it’s interesting it’s a really good chance to
learn about human rights we also have lower level support staff
associate they’re called associates whose job is sort of i would say
seventy-five percent administrative twenty-five percent substance they are
these are paid positions staff members and and considering what a lot of
administrative work they do we get incredibly qualified people applying for
those jobs and getting those jobs people with you know graduate you know
qualifications and all sorts of things and that is a way in although i must you
know I think when those people come in we do warn them that they’re going to be
doing them you know they’re often overqualified for what they’re doing and
warn them that you know there isn’t there isn’t a pathway from that level to
research your level most associates who end up being researchers they leave the
organization for a bit and then they come back as researchers but you’re just
finally you know I would say the most important thing if you want to be a
researcher Human Rights Watch is to gain some area expertise or something magic
expertise and linguistic skills really help as well because you know we are
looking we are always looking for people who really can be the best researcher on
a particular area on a particular country and that will often mean someone
who’s a real expert in that particular theme or country including having the
contacts having the language having the sort of background so if if I mean that
is a really important way of getting into this kind of work getting area
expertise particularly in parts of the world that maybe other people aren’t
particularly the knob to keep popular Africa Middle East Asia you know
that’s a that’s a pretty a good way and you know do try if you are if you are
interested it’s a great it’s a it’s a great job and I just end by sort of
emphasizing that I know a lot of you are coming from different disciplines
obviously the humanities and Social Sciences tend to be represented in this
field and the legal pathways but we have engineers we have tech folks and I think
we’ve seen through Tom’s comments the applications that those disciplines can
bring to this field thinking through these questions of drones and technology
and human rights watch about three years ago hired a quantitative expert and Ryan
root who heads all their methodology and quantitative work so those of you that
love data and data analysis can also think about entry through that way you
can basically find ways to apply your skills I think to these the area of
human rights I just wanted to give a shout out to the Haas Center and be pua
for supporting this event this has been part of our new and human rights and
community series and so this is a second one so we’ll be doing more than the next
academic year what we really try to create these more intimate conversations
with human rights practitioners so that you all can learn more so thanks
everyone for coming thanks Tom and you a nice watch you

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