Six Months of Online Videos Expose Civil Society Movements and Human Rights Concerns in Western Sahara

Following six months of collaborative research, the WITNESS Media Lab and FiSahara have released Watching Western Sahara Silk, a platform of curated and contextualized online videos from Western Sahara. The interactive site provides human rights monitors, investigators, diplomats, and citizens around the world footage documenting civil society movements and human rights abuses in the occupied territory.

Since late 2015, WITNESS and FiSahara have together leveraged online videos to support more effective reporting on Western Sahara – a territory that is nearly invisible to the outside world. The two organizations have trained at-risk Sahrawi media activists and human rights defenders on safe and effective documentation, and utilized the curation platform Checkdesk to curate, verify, and contextualize online reports.

Watching Western Sahara Silk compiles nearly 100 online videos recorded between December 2015 and June 2016, and allows users to view them within the context of larger stories of human rights in Western Sahara. In addition to other issues, these videos collectively expose a pattern of police intervention of peaceful protests, a large social movement calling for economic opportunities, ongoing demands for self-determination, and women-led demonstrations addressing the treatment of political prisoners. Click here to explore interactive reports and find videos based on location, time of recording, and other data points.   

The United Nations considers Western Sahara one of the world’s last “non-self-governing territories.” The Sahrawi population has lived under Moroccan rule for more than 40 years, despite a 1991 UN-brokered agreement to hold a referendum for self-determination. Due to strict limitations on the press, foreigners, and international human rights monitors, very rarely does footage or other reporting from the territory come to the attention of the international community.

More on this project and media activism in Western Sahara can be found here.



Visit our new GEN-AI microsite to keep up to date with our work on deepfakes and AI.

Take me there

Visit our new GEN-AI microsite