Highlights from the 2014 Human Rights First Award Dinner
Elisa Massimino's Remarks
When war broke out in 2011 in southern Sudan, the aid organization Ryan Boyette worked for ordered its staff to evacuate. Boyette refused. Knowing what was coming and the lack of media in the region to witness it, he enlisted community members in the Nuba Mountains to form Nuba Reports, a network of both citizen and professional journalists. Nuba Reports illuminates the effects on civilians of Sudan’s under-reported conflicts, providing both Sudanese people and the outside world with credible and compelling reporting. It is the only media positioned to regularly confirm events happening on the ground in the Nuba Mountains, where its reporters have documented more than 1,900 government bombings targeting civilians.
Armed with nothing but video cameras, solar-powered laptops, and satellite phones, Boyette and the Nuba Reports team risk their lives to expose the government’s indiscriminate bombing campaigns. Nuba Reports produces short documentary videos about attacks on civilians and the growing famine that was exacerbated when aid groups were forced by the violence to evacuate the region.
Just four months before the war started, Boyette married Jazira, a Nuban woman from the region; they have a two-year-old son. Their home has been bombed; a government spy was shot outside a building where Boyette was sleeping.
The risks, Boyette says, are worth it. He believes in the power of information to bring about change, and the importance of recording atrocities so that communities can heal and the world cannot say they did not know.
Sidney Lumet Award: 12 Years a Slave
American popular culture has the power to move and educate millions of people—here at home, and around the world. Each year, the Sidney Lumet Award honors a work of popular culture that raises awareness about human rights and advances popular understanding of the most pressing political and social issues of our time.
This year, we honor the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave, for its powerful portrayal of the scourge of slavery and the unspeakable toll it took on the human spirit. The film is an important reminder of a painful part of our history as a nation. But it also reminds us as Americans of our historic obligation to confront modern-day slavery—known as human trafficking—a contemporary crime that claims an estimated 21 million victims a year worldwide. 12 Years a Slave is making a meaningful difference on this issue: the power of the film, and its reach, have motivated audiences to demand effective action to end modern-day slavery.