Peter co-founded WITNESS in 1992. A year earlier, a bystander, George Holliday, recorded the brutal beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers. For the first time, people around the world saw the power of video to expose hidden abuses and catalyze social movements. This event started a global conversation around accountability. In response, Peter with the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First) and the Reebok Foundation for Human Rights, established WITNESS with the vision that video technology could be used as a tool for the advancement of human rights.
WITNESS listens closely to frontline defenders to understand their needs, creating guidance, tools, and solutions that have been shared with millions of people around the world facing similar threats and challenges. Helping individuals tell their stories with impact and ensuring the larger systems are more human rights friendly.
WITNESS also ensures that the truth is not compromised, the right voices are heard, and bad actors are held accountable for the crimes they commit and believes video and technology are transformative tools to create a just world.
“In this age, when the mass media rest in fewer and fewer hands, we must have strong, vital, independent voices if we ever want to hear all the stories or seek justice. We have an incredible opportunity to change lives.” – Peter Gabriel
Peter’s original vision for WITNESS was that the power of visual imagery and storytelling could open the world’s eyes to human rights abuse and compel people to take action for lasting change.
Since 1993 WITNESS has had a long-standing relationship with Harry Pearce at the design studio Pentagram, who has refreshed the visual identity for WITNESS in 2019 based on the philosophy of ‘make the truth visible’. The new identity is designed to encourage collaboration and participation;
“The simplicity of Peter’s idea of ‘Little brother turning the cameras back on big brother” as one of WITNESS’s founding thoughts made a profound impression on me,” says Pearce. “I hoped that my graphic work could help connect people with their films across the globe.”
On 11 May 2017 WITNESS celebrated its 25th anniversary. Watch Peter’s video address to the WITNESS 25th Anniversary Gala that took place at The Edison Ballroom in New York.
“It’s extraordinary work that you’ve done.” says Peter. “Thank you so much. A brilliant 25 years and here’s to the next 25 years.”