Harnessing the Power of Video to Support Legal Campaigns

Bertha Foundation believes that law and media in combination can advance the struggle for social justice. To this end, Bertha Foundation brings together lawyers - from its network of 16 public interest law centers around the world - to work with storytellers.

To facilitate using the power of media to support legal campaigns, Bertha awarded a grant to NMAP to create video content that amplifies the work of lawyers in the Bertha Justice Network.

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Harnessing the Power of Video to Support Legal Campaigns

Bertha Foundation supports activists, storytellers and lawyers working to bring about human rights for all and we believe that social change can happen effectively when these groups and individuals come together to work on a common issue. We call this our Theory of Change.

To this end, Bertha Foundation brings together lawyers - from our network of 16 public interest law centers around the world - to work with storytellers. Aiming to facilitate the power of media to support legal campaigns, Bertha awarded a grant to NMAP to create video content that amplifies the work of lawyers in the Bertha Justice Network.


NMAP advances human rights by merging law with multimedia storytelling to bring the voices of people who have suffered violations into the halls of power. In partnership with human rights defenders, they produce tactical, audience-focused videos designed to win cases and campaigns, influence policy, mobilize communities and make the language of policy and law more accessible.

Bertha Justice Network organizations were invited to apply to collaborate with NMAP, proposing a specific case or issue where a video could advance their work.  NMAP and Bertha staff then used their combined knowledge and experience to assess the potential and determine which legal campaigns could most benefit from a coupled media strategy.

As a result, NMAP has collaborated with several Bertha Justice Partners creating visual content and media advocacy projects for litigation, legislative advocacy, community mobilization, and rights education. Below are several examples of NMAP’s work with Bertha Justice Partners.

“I remember the first time we met with NMAP, we started to see the incredible opportunity in connecting them with the human rights law centers in our network who were in need of new creative ways to support the legal cases and campaigns they were working on. What if video could help bring their clients’ own voices to the forefront? What might that mean for cases and campaigns? How else might video complement the work of these lawyers? This was exciting to us - starting to enact the Bertha theory of change in practice!" 

Rebecca Lichtenfeld
Director, Social Impact Media, Bertha Foundation

Waiting for Fahd

Center for Consitututional Rights (CCR)

Since the opening of Guantánamo Bay detention camp in 2002 CCR have been at the forefront of the legal battle against indefinite detention and torture at Guantánamo, representing many current and former detainees and working towards securing their freedom and closing the prison.


The short film Waiting for Fahd tells the story of CCR client Fahd Ghazy, a Yemeni national unlawfully detained at Guantánamo since 2002 when he was 17-years-old.

Through interviews with his family in Yemen, Waiting for Fahd paints a vivid portrait of the life that awaits a man who, despite being twice cleared for release, continues to languish at Guantánamo - denied his home, his livelihood, and his loved ones because of his nationality.

Image courtesy of CCR


  • Create a film that serves as the focal point of CCR’s advocacy to release Fahd Ghazy from Guantánamo.
  • Design a tactical distribution plan to remind U.S. officials that there is no evidence that Fahd engaged in terrorist activity, and that he is very unlikely to engage in terrorist activities when back in Yemen because of his supportive family network there.
  • Use the film to build public support and create political cover for the U.S. State Department to release Fahd.

Waiting for Fahd (short documentary)

Waiting for Fahd (short documentary)


  • CCR used the video as the centerpiece of its advocacy calling for the release of Fahd and the closure of Guantánamo, and have shown the video to several key government officials.
  • The film provided a platform for Fahd to speak directly to viewers, writing personally to thank them for being, "willing to view me as a human being…a man who is loved and who loves."
  • As a result of increased interest in Fahd due to the film, he made an accompanying personal appeal that was subsequently translated into four languages and shared worldwide.
  • Scores of supporters attended CCR’s public screenings (including five screenings in New York and Washington D.C. and one in New Orleans), which led to increased public awareness and pressure to release Fahd.
  • The film has been tweeted to more than one million people, including directly at U.S. Senators voting to ban prisoner releases from Guantánamo. News outlets, including Newsweek, The Huffington Post and others, picked up the video. People also supported the accompanying social media campaign and tweeted and shared pictures and messages with the hashtag #FreeFahd.

As a result of the broader campaign, Fahd was released in early 2016 after spending 14 years imprisoned.

The success of the project led to a new collaboration between NMAP and CCR to draw attention to the issue of solitary confinement. This focused on a case brought on behalf of prisoners who had spent a decade or longer in solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. CCR was successful: the case settled, ending indeterminate solitary confinement in California and dramatically reducing the number of people in isolation. You can watch the video here.

"A good indication of the success of the film is that when subsequent releases were announced, people would ask, ‘Why wasn’t Fahd one of them?’ That kind of personal investment is the thing that has been missing from Guantánamo advocacy ever since the prison opened. People care about the issue, but don’t really care about the people there. At the very outset we made a difficult choice of identifying this particular story as the best vehicle for showing that there were many more men like Fahd. It’s the kind of tool that really advances the cause for all the prisoners."

Omar Farah
Staff Attorney at CCR

Advancing Justice through Expert Testimony

Bureau des Avo­cats Inter­na­tionaux (BAI)
and Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH)

BAI and IJDH are a partnership of Haitian and U.S. human rights advocates, supporting the Haitian people in their grassroots struggle for a just system of law, social justice, a democratic government and a society without violence. Together they work in partnership with grassroots movements to transform the structural injustices that stand in the way of stability and prosperity for the majority of Haitians.


This film advocates for the greater use of expert testimony in Haitian courts. Testimony from medical and psychological experts is particularly important in cases of gender-based violence to help avoid the risk of re-traumatization of victims when testifying, and to prevent a potential denial of justice. While the video is primarily intended for Haitian judges, prosecutors and lawyers, the message is universal: expert testimony is vital for all criminal trials, especially in the case of rape.


  • Provide judicial officials, the press and the public a better understanding of the psychological and physical consequences of rape.
  • Prove the need for expert testimony in rape cases. By featuring the voices of leading Haitian judges and prosecutors, the video aims to inform and inspire the use of experts in all criminal trials, and especially in cases of gender-based violence.
  • Use the video to encourage support of grassroots advocacy and legal training, and to promote discussion of gender-based violence within Haiti’s justice system and society.
  • Educate and involve grassroots women’s groups in the discussions of rape trial advocacy so that they have the knowledge and experience necessary to advocate for the inclusion of experts.
  • Capitalize on the strong and sincere desire within the Haitian legal community - specifically the Haitian Bar Association - to improve the legal system.

Advancing Justice through Expert Testimony (short documentary)

Advancing Justice through Expert Testimony (short documentary)


  • The process of producing the video engaged legal community leaders - judges, prosecutor and Bar leaders - in efforts to remove structural obstacles to justice for rape victims.
  • The video features René Magloire, who is leading the reform of Haiti’s penal code. His appearance in the video helped build his own personal investment around the issue and also led to investment from his peers.
  • The video serves as an effective training tool for BAI in their legal training program.
  • The Haitian Bar Association incorporates the video in their training curriculum for apprentice lawyers, so that the next generation of lawyers will be aware of the need for expert witnesses.
  • Each year, BAI lawyers screen the video at state medical school training sessions they lead, which helps to stimulate conversations between legal and medical professionals and students. This is a crucial first step in the paradigm shift necessary for the just treatment of rape victims.
  • Other legal organizations have requested use of the video and expressed interest in using the film in trainings.

"The film skillfully stimulates discussions among students and professionals from the legal and medical communities about the justice system's treatment of rape survivors. These discussions are transforming the professionals' approach to rape victims and their cases."

Brian Concannon
Director, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

The Struggle for Quality Infrastructure in South African Schools

Equal Education Law Centre (EELC)

The Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) is a public interest law clinic dedicated to advancing access to equal and quality education in South Africa. The EELC engages in movement lawyering in support of Equal Education (EE), a membership-based movement of predominantly high school learners, as well as parents and teachers; community lawyering with individual and community-based clients across South Africa; and research and advocacy on issues impacting on education equity.

The Michael Komape Campaign:

Infrastructure inadequacies, scarce resources and overcrowding are defining characteristics of countless schools that serve learners across South Africa. In response to these challenges, in 2011, Equal Education launched its campaign for Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure, demanding regulations which state the minimum level of infrastructure a school requires. In November 2013, after hard-fought advocacy by Equal Education, the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure was signed into law.

But having the law was just the first step. Implementation has been an ongoing struggle.  Michael Komape was a five-year-old primary school learner who died when he fell into a toilet pit at his school in 2014. His death was a tragic reminder of the urgency of improving school infrastructure, including sanitation.

Since November 2016, all schools in the country have been required to have running water, basic sanitation, electricity and no schools can be built entirely from wood, mud, metal or asbestos.

To ensure Equal Education can inform communities of the existence of this law and their ability to hold the government accountable, the NMAP team created a video that documents the poor conditions at schools in the Eastern Cape and captures first-person accounts from learners, teachers, principals and parents of how unsafe conditions and inadequate facilities negatively impact learning.


    • Educate the South African public by using video to document conditions at schools and capture accounts from learners, teachers, principals and parents on the most immediate requirements under the Norms and Standards which directly affect the safety and security of learners.
    • Ensure the Norms and Standards exist at all schools within three years from when the law came into effect by appealing to stakeholders.
    • Translate the film into both English and isiXhosa, present the Norms and Standards in simpler terms, and encourage further documentation of infrastructure in schools across the Eastern Cape.
    • Use media to target learners, parents, teachers and their broader communities, primarily in poorer and more rural provinces of South Africa where EE works, and where the crisis of poor infrastructure at schools is most dire.
    • Compare the widespread lack of infrastructure at many schools with the quality infrastructure at others to inform learners, parents, teachers and the broader public about their rights.
    • Highlight the work of EE and its key strategies and inspire others to take action by sharing both stories about the harmful effects of poor infrastructure, and the successes of past campaigns to improve schools.

The Michael Komape Campaign (short documentary)

The Michael Komape Campaign (short documentary)


  • NMAP provided Equal Education with a comprehensive social media kit including sample messaging, photos, short teaser clips and DVD covers to aid with the online launch of the video.
  • The video was used by EE staff and local “Equalizers” (EE learner members) in school and community meetings throughout the Eastern Cape to inform parents, students, teachers and principals about the Norms and Standards law.
  • The video was screened with Equal Education members in order to foster more momentum to push the government to implement basic Norms and Standards.
  • This project has served as a successful capacity building exercise for EE as they learned about production planning and played an active role in the shoot in South Africa in March 2015. Local staff were interviewed for the piece, asked questions of interview subjects, helped identify places to shoot and engaged critically with the process of developing a piece of media for advocacy.
  • NMAP also worked with Amazwi Wethu, EE’s film training program, to select and mentor a young filmmaker during their shoot in Eastern Cape in March 2015.
  • In addition to the piece NMAP produced, video shot by NMAP is now being used by EE's Gauteng office, which is working with a local creative partner to produce a separate video that supports a province-wide sanitation campaign.

"The video has contributed significantly to our broader goal of enabling communities to understand that there are basic government standards that their schools are obliged to meet - including access to water, basic sanitation and electricity. This video includes first-person accounts from community members addressing how inadequate facilities negatively impact learning, thus serving as an important mobilizing tool."

Yoni Bass
Chief Financial Officer, Equal Education

Words That Kill

Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CAJAR)

CAJAR is a non-profit, non-governmental organization of human rights defenders in Colombia. CAJAR works to defend and promote human rights from an integrated perspective based on the indivisibility and interdependence of all rights and freedoms. They contribute to the fight against impunity and the consolidation of a democratic and participatory Social State of Law with a fair and equitable society, through fighting for political, economic, social and cultural inclusion to achieve stable and lasting peace.


This series of videos, created by NMAP in partnership with CAJAR, demonstrates how defamation campaigns are being used as a tactic to stigmatize human rights defenders and undermine their work.

NMAP also conducted capacity building trainings with CAJAR so that lawyers at the organization could learn how to better use media strategically in their legal advocacy.


  • Inform lawmakers, lawyers and thought leaders why they should support human rights work and why people should recognize and reject smear campaigns.
  • Use video to show a unified front among NGOs, human rights defenders and their clients.
  • Use video and social media to generate public solidarity for CAJAR and other Colombian human rights defenders (including NGOs, politicians, victims of abuse) who are threatened and attacked by right-wing politicians.
  • Establish that smear campaigns can be minimized if the public chooses not to engage and propagate the false information.
  • Equip partners and allies with adaptable media tools to explain why the smear campaigns are baseless.

Words that Kill (info film)

Words that Kill (info film)



  • NMAP conducted a one-day multimedia training with frontline community leaders (“project facilitators”) from CAJAR’s advocacy training program. This program was established to enable CAJAR to teach community activists about legal advocacy techniques. NMAP worked with CAJAR to tailor the workshop to the needs and requests of Colombia’s community activists.
  • NMAP led a half-day social media training for CAJAR’s lawyers and administrative staff. This training improved their ability to share their work and messaging more effectively on social platforms. This was crucial given the government-controlled traditional media environment in Colombia.
  • NMAP solicited feedback from the participants of the trainings and all respondents found the topics covered in the workshops to be relevant and useful to their work, said they would strongly recommend the workshop to others, and said they were interested in pursuing more training on the topics covered.


    • NMAP worked with CAJAR to produce a series of five videos entitled Words That Kill—an introduction followed by four case studies of defenders who have been stigmatized for their work. To support this work and to help build their capacity to effectively use social media, NMAP created a suite of social media materials including sample messaging, short teasers and promotional images. They created a boost post which included the introduction video and released it on Colombia’s National Day of Solidarity with Victims.  The post reached nearly 42,000 people and the video received nearly 13,000 views.
    • CAJAR has successfully used the videos created in their legal advocacy work, both publicly and in one-on-one advocacy meetings:
    • - Reynaldo Villalba, one of CAJAR’s lawyers featured, shared the video at the at the 2017 Bertha Justice Convening as part of a discussion about the protection and security of human rights defenders. CAJAR will continue to screen the videos at conferences within Colombia and around the world to build international solidarity with other defenders.

      - CAJAR’s communications team is currently in the process of ensuring that all of their lawyers have the videos on their phones so that they can share the videos with prosecutors, as well as with magistrates, via WhatsApp. Since WhatsApp is reasonably secure, free and works over a 3G signal, these videos can be shared with clients in more rural areas of Colombia.

Words that Kill: David Ravelo

  • David Ravelo, the subject of one of the videos, was finally released from prison last month after serving seven years for a crime he didn't commit. CAJAR shared David’s #WordsThatKill campaign video again to help create support of Colombian human rights defenders at key moments throughout the year.
  • CAJAR won a libel suit against a former politician who was forced to retract past statements where he had accused them of creating false witnesses. NMAP quickly edited the video focused on that case to include the politician’s retracted statements and news of the ruling. CAJAR then published and promoted the edited version across their social media platforms to inform people about the retraction and why it mattered.
  • CAJAR collaborated with Tom Laffay, the videographer for the Words That Kill series, to produce photo essays of defenders conducting human rights work in rural areas of Colombia. This project, which premiered in Bogota on 12 September 2017, shows the work that these defenders are doing, while also creating visibility in order to deter threats of violence against them.
  • The collaboration with NMAP has helped create a foundation for CAJAR and other human rights defenders in Colombia to band together around a common message and strategy. CAJAR can take the materials developed by NMAP and use them in policy meetings, at conferences, in the press and on social media so that they can move from a reactionary stance to a proactive one.

"I learned strategies to make our activities more visible and learned actions that we can utilize with everyday tools to be more visible at a national level."

 "It forced me to learn more about digital security and social media and to want to share this information with my community."

 "It helped us take the painful realities of things that have happened in our communities and approach them in a hopeful way."

Comments from participants of the CAJAR NMAP training in Colombia


Through these case studies, and the other Bertha-supported collaborations between NMAP and Bertha Justice Partners, the crucial role that storytelling can play in increasing the reach and impact of legal campaigns is palpable. By bringing cases to life through first-hand storytelling, stimulating public action and educating the public on legal matters that directly affect lives, each campaign has been significantly strengthened by the power that moving images offer. As such, these collaborations enabled by Bertha Foundation effectively demonstrate Bertha’s Theory of Change - that if given the resources to connect and work together, the combined power of storytellers, activists and lawyers can create a deeper and longer lasting impact than might be possible in working towards similar issues separately.

"The process of working with NMAP to bring the power of storytelling to our legal partners has taught us many lessons. This includes, but is not limited to, the variety of ways film can serve as a tool in support of furthering a legal case or campaign. We have seen that this can be via a discreet project for a particular advocacy purpose behind closed doors, an evidence presentation for court, or one piece of a larger campaign. This is in addition to supporting litigation or community mobilization, rights education, etc. For all of these, cultural context, legal complexities and safety and security need to be taken into account. To be best placed for success, strategic roadmaps were created with a clear strategy for what specific role a video could play, who the target audiences would be and how it would be used to connect back to the original advocacy goal. In most cases, just making it clear to people what is possible with video was an important first step.“

Rebecca Lichtenfeld
Director, Social Impact Media, Bertha Foundation


Images courtesy of NMAP