Support Activists Globally to Use Video for Change

Play Video
Support Activists Globally to Use Video for Change
Support Activists Globally to Use Video for Change
Support Activists Globally to Use Video for Change

Project Report | Apr 15, 2019
Video in Western Sahara - Africa's Last Colony

By WITNESS | Global Staff

Western Sahara, with a population of over half a million people and 200,000km land mass—the size of South Dakota—is the world’s largest non self-governing territory. It is also Africa’s last colony, left under Moroccan occupation following the retreat of Spanish colonial power in the 1960s.

The human rights situation is still dire, and This April, the U.N. Security Council will once again consult on the status of its peacekeeping mission in the territory—due to expire at the end of this month—after a 6-month extension was granted in October of 2018. Despite the high levels of censorship, access restrictions, and media blockades over the last few decades, indigenous Sahrawi activists and journalists have harnessed the power of eyewitness footage and mobile phones to provide a rare window into the human rights abuses taking place in Western Sahara. But these brave actions do not come without danger.

Silencing of the Press

Nouzha El-Khalidi, journalist and member of the Sahrwai collective Equipe Media, was prosecuted on March 18th for filming and uploading a video of a peaceful demonstration in the streets of Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara. She was arrested while her video showed the moment of police chasing her. She was subsequently beaten, arrested and had her mobile phone confiscated.

She was charged with “impersonating an illegal profession” as part of a plan by Morocco to silence journalists who are seen as key to breaking the Moroccan media blockade.

“We are trying to highlight human rights violations in Western Sahara, which puts our safety at risk,” Khalidi said. “We are subject to arrest and torture. Our families are under pressure and threats. The only crime I have committed is that I have filmed the violence of the Moroccan police against peaceful Sahrawis and therefore I am likely to be arrested for months or years. But there is no way to break the media embargo imposed by Morocco. “

In recent years, the number of Saharawi journalists who photograph and share their footage has increased because of abuses by the Moroccan police. Morocco’s response was to increase the number of arbitrary arrests, prison sentences, harassment and physical attacks against them .

Al-Khalidi was arrested last December while directly broadcasting a demonstration on social networking sites. In August, when she was covering a demonstration for Sahrawi women, Moroccan police confiscated her camera and detained her at a police station for a night. During her detainment she was interrogated and subjected to ill-treatment but was released without charge.

Morocco is one of the most difficult areas for media workers, with increased arrests of journalists during demonstrations, the trial of Saharan journalists and the deportation of foreign journalists.

WITNESS supports Sahrawi activists

In April of 2016 WITNESS began working with Sahrawi activists, journalists and technologists to curate and verify 111 eyewitness human rights videos. These videos included footage of protests and testimonies from international observers or from witnesses, victims, and survivors of human rights abuses.

Read our 1-year report on the methodology and curation of these videos at WITNESS Media Lab. We stand with the brave activists who fight for freedom of expression and the protection of human rights in Western Sahara. For more resources, visit our free library to find guidance on verification and curation of human rights video.


Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Dec 26, 2018
Video Evidence Secures Justice in the DRC

By Emily Myers | External Relations Associate

Aug 30, 2018
Using Video to Protect the Environment in Mexico

By Ali Sidiki | Communications Associate, WITNESS

About Project Reports

Project reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you can recieve an email when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports without donating.

Sign up for updates

Organization Information


Location: Brooklyn, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @witnessorg
Project Leader:
Brooklyn , NY United States

Retired Project!

This project is no longer accepting donations.

Still want to help?

Find another project in Brazil or in Justice and Human Rights that needs your help.
Find a Project

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

Get incredible stories, promotions, and matching offers in your inbox

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.