Training victims of human rights abuses to use video technology to expose those abuses

Based in Hungary and Romania, the Black Box Foundation works to improve attitudes towards the Roma minority by training them in the production of television programs for local channels. The Foundation creates production teams, trains them in video production, secures airtime and sees that programs are exchanged between teams.

Since 1997, the Black Box Foundation has trained approximately 150 Roma at twelve locations within Hungary and Romania to inform local viewers about the issues affecting their communities. The Foundation solicits appli­cations and creates ethnically-mixed teams of five people. Staff members first work to build trusting relationships with and among team members, discussing individual viewpoints and addressing the sensitive issues that will be brought up in the program. Teams then learn the fundamentals of television production and consult with experts on minority issues.

During the last three days of training, teams produce their first films. The Foundation provides cameras, lights, microphones and other necessary equipment. The teams go on to produce monthly programs at their local tele­vision stations, working independently and with their own resources, while the Foundation negotiates to secure regular airtime for the programs. The Foundation supervises and monitors teams for six months following train­ing and teams exchange the videos they make with each other.

Outcomes among the production teams have varied. A number of teams continue to broadcast regularly on local television, while others now use their skills and equipment to record the activities of their organizations.

Due to the success of this approach, the Black Box Foundation has opened a successful one-year school for Roma students who are interested in becoming television professionals.

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.

What we can learn from this tactic: 

Human rights practitioners often need to get their message out to a broader public. In an age of advanced tech­nology, this increasingly requires access to video and broadcast technology and the skills to use it.

The Black Box Foundation program has helped to change the way minorities are viewed and treated in the region, reducing discrimination and prejudice. In Hungary and Romania the Roma are often segregated from the majority populations and their problems are hidden. They do not have access to the same educational and other resources used by the general population. The Black Box training program not only gives participants the skills they need to tell their own stories — as Roma — it also helps broadcast those stories using a medium mem­bers of the majority population are likely to see. This helps build a culture in which the minority and majority populations work together to promote human rights for all.