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Aug 29, 2014

Room in the 8th District - Campaign Report

Campaign website
Campaign website

Dear Drugreporter Supporters!

I would like to update you about the latest advocacy efforts of the Drugreporter team to advance harm reduction in Budapest, Hungary. Please read our campaign report! 


International organisations invited NGOs to participate in the 2014 Global Day of Action on June 26, to raise awareness of alternatives to punitive drug policies. Answering the call, we launched the “Room in the Eight” campaign in Budapest. We contracted a webdesigner and PR firm, Urban Communications, to provide us with technical assistance on graphic design, advertising and on-site campaigning. The aim of the campaign was to educate and mobilise the general public, especially residents of the Budapest 8th district, to support innovative harm reduction solutions as alternatives to criminalisation. The goal is to keep harm reduction on the agenda of political decision-makers, and open the first supervised injection facilities in the city.

BACKGROUND 

Since 2006, the Blue Point NGO had been providing clean needles and syringes for the most marginalised injecting drug users in one of the most impoverished neighbourhoods of Budapest. This was the largest needle and syringe program, having reached out to more than 3,000 clients, most of them unemployed and living in poverty. The local mayor and his team accused the program of “attracting drug users to the district”, and blamed them for the presence of drug litter on the streets. Despite the first officially registered HIV transmissions among local drug users, the NGO was forced to shut down their service by the end of the summer. (To learn more, read our detailed article!

CAMPAIGN MESSAGE

The local mayor has been trying to convince local residents that the solution is to close down needle exchange programs, and rely on law enforcement to eliminate drug use. We would like to convince people that the real solution is not less, but more, harm reduction

We realised that there was a significant gap between the real public health harms of the open drug scene, and the harms perceived by local residents. For example, local non drug users are much more concerned about drug litter on the street, than about drug users sharing injecting equipment. In reality, the chance of someone getting infected by touching a used needle on the street is minimal, whereas the risk of transmission from sharing injecting equipment is huge. We needed to communicate our message in a way which would appeal to most audiences, especially to those who live in the neighbourhood. 

We therefore stressed the beneficial effects of harm reduction services on the harms perceived by local residents: the presence of unofficial shooting galleries, drug litter on the streets, and nuisance caused by street drug use. The solution we proposed, was to create a safe, hygienic environment for drug users to inject their drugs, using sterile equipment – that is, to open supervised injection rooms in the 8th district (“Room in the 8”). This is beneficial, not only for drug users (by reducing the incidence of blood-borne infections and overdoses), but for non-users as well, by reducing the prevalence of street injection and getting rid of unofficial shooting galleries. 

CAMPAIGN WEBSITE

We created a campaign website to communicate this message, with various multimedia contents, including the campaign movie (see below). The website explains problems and solutions in relation to the open drug scene, via three short thematic videos: one on the risk of HIV and hepatitis C infections; another on the growing problem of drug litter on the streets; and a third about harm reduction solutions from other places, for example, Vancouver, Switzerland, Australia, and Denmark. The website encourages people to sign the online petition - which addresses decision-makers in the local, municipal, and national governments, by proposing a comprehensive package, a four-pillar strategy, including prevention, treatment, harm reduction and smart policing. In addition to the petition, there are links to connect visitors to social media pages (Facebook, Twitter) and to Drugreporter. Our online petition was signed by 2,000 people during the first week of the campaign, and the number of signatories now exceeds 5,400. 

CAMPAIGN MOVIE

We produced a twenty-minute campaign film, featuring people who use drugs, professionals, and local residents. Our video crew followed the street outreach team of the Blue Point needle exchange, and we interviewed people in the neighborhood of the centre. With the help of a drone hellicopter and our GoPro camera, we produced aerial footage of the 8th district, and used segments from our video about Insite, (the supervised injection site in Vancouver), to contrast the hygienic, safe environment of a consumption room, with reality on the Budapest streets. The movie does not attempt to gloss over the fears and problems of local residents, but it offers effective solutions. We advertised the video with a short trailer. Our video got 20,000 views in the first week, and by August, that number had reached more than 80,000. It has been featured, with our embedded links, by several online news sites. Watch the video here!

CAMPAIGN EVENT

On June 26 we invited the citizens of Budapest to an open forum, located at MÜSZI, a community centre in the 8th district, where we gave the first public screening of our campaign movie. Following the screening, we had a round-table discussion, with a client of the needle exchange centre, professionals, and a non-drug-using resident. The forum was moderated by Krisztina Bombera, a well-known television journalist, who fronts a talk show on ATV, a news channel. A number of local residents showed up at the forum and showed support to our campaign. Unfortunately the local mayor did not accept our invitation - only opposition politicians came, and spoke up in support of our initiative. The room, with a capacity for 200 people, was almost full, and media interest also exceeded our expections. (A photo gallery of the event!) 

 
MEDIA WORK

To maximise our media impact, we had an agreement with 444, a major Hungarian online news site, to publish our film as a leading article, the day after our campaign event, on World Drug [Awareness? jld] Day. In addition, we distributed a press release among journalists in Hungary, to raise awareness of the campaign. We contacted several key journalists personally. The campaign was featured by the Evening News of one of the most popular commercial TV chanels in Hungary, RTL KLUB. This Evening News has almost 1 million viewers. We were invited to ATV Start, a talk show of another TV chanel with national coverage, ATV. We were interviewed by radio shows (for example KlubRádió) and by a weekly magazine, Magyar Narancs. Many other printed and online newspapers wrote about the campaign, some of them embedded our campaign movie to their news articles, or using our footage for their own videos. We distributed videos and images on social media as well. 

CITYLIGHT ADS

We got a lucky offer to use 'citylight' ad surfaces for a reduced price. Citylight is a construction with internal illumination (a thin light panel, mounted on its own stand) with the format of advertising filling 1.2 x 1.8 meters. We installed citylight ads in 10 locations within the 8th district, in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic. The central message of the posters reads “Use your signature to support a city free from drug litter”, and the explanation below: “Join our campaign for a city where drug users inject in a safe and hygienic room, not in your doorway”; and on the bottom of the poster, a short message, with “Support. Don’t Punish”, and the link to the campaign website and petition. 

ON-SITE CAMPAIGNING

We set up two posts to collect signatures among residents in the 8th district, one in front of the administrative office of the municipality, the other at the entrance to the covered market – both areas which are frequented by people all day. For one week, we collected signatures every day, from 8 am to 6 pm, with the help of hostesses and volunteers. Beside collecting 1,742 signatures, this also provided an ideal opportunity to discuss campaign issues with people. 

SUMMARY OF RESULTS

  • 80,000+ views of our campaign video on YouTube
  • 5,400+ signatures for our online petition
  • 1,742 signatures collected on the street
  • 150+ people attended our campaign event
  • 10 citylight ads in heavily-trafficked areas
  • 3 television appearances and 4 radio shows
  • appr. 20 articles/interviews in the online/printed media


FUTURE OUTLOOK

Few advocacy opportunities for civil society exist under the current anti-democratic Hungarian regime. We launched our campaign in a very hostile political environment, seeking to target people who were either indifferent to harm reduction, or who were actively opposed to it. We sent the petition to decision-makers. The State Secretary at the Ministry of Human Resources sent us a letter, in which he assured us that the government is committed to finding a harm reduction solution, but they do not support the opening of an injection site. Negotiations are underway between civil society and the Ministry, to create a special fund to scale up harm reduction in the 8th district. The Mayor and his office did not officially respond to our letter and refused to engage in a dialogue. Some local opposition politicians responded positively, and accepted our call to put the campaign on the agenda of the City Council. The campaign was highly effective in mobilising people for the cause of harm reduction, raising public awareness of the risk of infections and the closure of the syringe exchange program, and generating media attention and public discussion. 

Your support is vital for us - please make a donation today on Global Giving and help us to debunk the global War on Drugs! 

Drugreporter on TV
Drugreporter on TV
Citylight ad in Budapest
Citylight ad in Budapest
Public film screening & discussion forum
Public film screening & discussion forum
Aug 4, 2014

Was the Cure for AIDS on the Malaysian Flight?

Dear Drugreporter Fans,

the international AIDS conference was overshadowed by the tragedy of flight MH17. Six well-known HIV researchers and activists were on board, on their way to Melbourne, when separatist forces shot down the plane. According to some speculation, widely publicised in the media, “The cure for AIDS might have been on the plane”. But are we really that close to ending the HIV epidemic? Does it depend on one “secret formula” that might have been travelling in the suitcase of Dr. Joep Lange, former head of the International AIDS Society? Not really. The reality is, as usual, far more complicated. But in a sense, all these six professionals knew the antidotes for HIV, and worked hard to raise awareness of them. The Drugreporter film crew attended the conference to find out what works to end AIDS for good and all.  

Please click here and watch our new movie!

The Drugreporter team does not only produce videos - we also train other activists to use films as tools for activism. After the AIDS conference we were invited by the New Zealand Drug Foundation to Auckland, NZ, to make a video advocacy training for service providers and activists. In the two days workshop we trained them how use videos as part of an advocacy strategy. Participants were introduced to the use of camera and editing softwares. You can find a photo gallery of the workshop on our Facebook page!

The Drugreporter team needs your support to continue its filming and training activities to change drug policies. We do not accept any funding from the government or political parties, therefore we are largely dependent on privat donations. 

Please go the GlobalGiving website and make a tax-deductable donation now!

Best regards,

Peter Sarosi 
Drug Policy Program Director  

May 5, 2014

The Beginning of the End of the Global War on Drugs

Dear Drugreporter Fans!

In 2012, the HCLU produced 154 movies, of which 76 are foreign-language, and 78 are in Hungarian. In 2013, we produced 64 movies - 16 in Hungarian and 48 in other languages. During those two years, we won five prizes and held five training courses in video advocacy. Browse these two catalogues and open the videos by clicking on the link!

In 2009, the member states of the United Nations reaffirmed the dream of a drug-free world, adopting a political declaration which aimed to eliminate or significantly reduce drug trafficking within ten years. Five years later, a high-level segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was convened in Vienna, to discuss the mid-term review of the implementation of this plan. What are the key issues that divide the United Nations? Is the international drug control system losing relevance? What can we expect from the UN General Assembly on Drugs in 2016?

The film we produced in Vienna aims to provide answers to these questions.

We are now working on a movie on the policy on so called legal highs (new psychoactive substances) in New Zealand, a country that decided to regulate the market instead of prohibiting them. The movie is coming soon! 

Next week we are going to Basel, to the European Harm Reduction Conference, where we would like to produce a short video review of current trends in harm reduction. 

Without Your support we would not be able to produce films for changing drug policies. 

Please go the Global Giving website and make a tax-deductable donation now!

Best regards,

Peter Sarosi
Drug Policy Program Director  

Jan 2, 2014

Please Help Us To Debunk The Drug War in 2014!

Dear Fellow Drug Policy Reformers!

Thank you so much for supporting Drugreporter in the previous year - this was a truly historical year for the international drug policy reform movement! 

We have produced several remarkable movies in 2013, such our award-winning film featuring Insite, the first supervised injecting site of North America. We attended and filmed the 2013 session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to make make it more transparent and accountable. We continued our Count the Costs serial with a movie on the devastating consequences of the global war on drugs on security and development. We travelled to Romania to film about the new HIV epidemic among drug users and launched a campaign to support harm reduction in Romania. The Drugreporter filming crew was invited to film at the International Harm Reduction Conference and the International Drug Policy Reform Conference. We prodcued a video on cannabis regulation in Colorado. 

You can follow our activities on Facebook, on Twitter and on the Drugreporter website

Our mission as the chronicles of the drug policy reform movement is far from over. Next year will be a busy year for us. We are going to be at the forefront of change with our cameras to document human rights abuses, to mobilize people and to train activists. Our team was invited to film about the innovative legislation of New Zealand on new psychoactive substances and about the HIV epidemic among injecting drug users in Greece, to train young activists in Nigeria, Indonesia and Thailand to use video advocacy. All these activities are impossible without your support - the Drugreporter does not accept any money from the government or political parties.

Please go the Global Giving website and make a tax-deductable donation now!

Best regards and happy new year! 

Peter Sarosi
Drug Policy Program Director
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union 

Oct 8, 2013

Drugreporter third report!

Campiagn in Romania
Campiagn in Romania

Dear Drugreporter Global Giving Supporters!

We would like to update you on our recent filming activity: We travelled to Romania to produce two movies, and launched a campaign, in collaboration with the Romanian Harm Reduction Network, to raise awareness of the current outbreak of HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users in Romania. For many years, HIV infections were very rare among injecting drug users in Romania: just one or two cases annually. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years. A market boom in new psychoactive stimulants (sold as “ethnobotanicals”) has led to a rapid increase in the number of drug injections: a heroin user injects 4-5 times a day - a stimulant drug user 10-15 times. As a result, HIV is rapidly increasing among drug users in Romania. Previously, successful harm reduction programs in Romania were funded by the Global Fund, but when it withdrew from the country, the Government did not maintain support for these life-saving services. As a result, programs have been forced to shut down. In our short documentary and taster, experts and users call upon the government to provide funding for harm reduction. Please join the campaign: watch and share this video and take action to stop HIV!

The situation is similar in Serbia, with the exception that an HIV epidemic has not yet started among injecting users, thanks to the existing harm reduction measures. Just like in Romania, Global Fund support will stop, Government funding is uncertain, and the result may well be a similar rapidly-growing HIV epidemic. We travelled to film in Belgrade, and we are planning to produce our movies in the coming month. You can find many photos on Facebook about our filming trip!

The Drugreporter video team will be attending the Drug Reform conference in Denver, USA. As official conference film-makers, we will record sessions and produce video blogs about the event. For updates of the conference, follow us on Facebook!

For our movie on InSite, the safer injection room in Vancouver, we won the prize for the best Web Video documentary, in the Hungarian Kreatív Magazine's Annual contest. At the end of the year we bought a new camera, a Canon 5d Mark III. It will improve the quality of our movies, and we can now produce really good quality still images too. Thank you very much for your support!

Yours sincerely,
István Gábor Takács and Péter Sárosi
HCLU/Drugreporter

Slum in Belgrade
Slum in Belgrade
Heroin prepared for injection in a slum. Belgrade
Heroin prepared for injection in a slum. Belgrade
Needle exchange at Veza, in Belgrade.
Needle exchange at Veza, in Belgrade.
Drugreporter during filming at Veza, in Belgrade
Drugreporter during filming at Veza, in Belgrade

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Organization

Project Leader

Peter Sarosi

Drug Policy Program Director
Budapest, Pest Hungary

Where is this project located?

Map of Debunking the War on Drugs