Kari Nøst Hegseth and Silje Poulsen Viki in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International News Network
‘The Human Rights Human Wrongs’, is a documentary film festival in Oslo, Norway. The documentary film fiesta creates a unique gathering place where the general audience, activists, experts, filmmakers, artists, students, and organizations meet as active participants.The six-day film festival consists of 15-30 documentaries each year.
These films engage audiences and, by decreasing the knowledge gap between experts and the general audience, create a fantastic starting point for debate and discussion related to human rights issues across the globe.
Event organizers Kari Nøst Hegseth and Silje Poulsen Viki in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief Hatef Mokhtar talked about the objectives of film festival and its positive impact in the society.
Excerpts below give us an insight into the interesting talk that followed:
Can you elaborate the meaning of human rights and human wrong terminologies and purpose behind their use?
Silje Poulsen Viki: Well the human rights focuses on human rights and obviously human wrong focuses on many wrong incidents that unfortunately occur around the globe. So, through the films we screen, we show these human wrongs to the people.
Who participates in the film festivals?
Silje Poulsen Viki: Participants come from all corners of the world. This year we have Jamila Raqib, Executive Director of the Albert Einstein Institution and as a Research Affiliate of the Center for International Studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from the United States of America, who works closely with Dr. Gene Shark, a scholar on strategic non-violent action. He is a very familiar or famous figure when it comes to non-violence resistance theory. We have actually two politicians from Zimbabwe— one from Garbage Party and another from the NDC party, the opposition party. We have two Italian journalists. The focus is mainly on the refugee challenges in the South of Europe and Europe in general and how Europe is treating all the refugees that come from the countries in the Middle East, such as Syria. He is a journalist and the director of our opening film that is about a group of refugees’ journey from Lampedusa to all the way up to Sweden, where they seek asylum. The other Italian journalist is Francesca Borri, she was actually the last international journalist to leave Syria, when it got too dangerous. And now she is trying to get embedded in the IS in Iraq in Syria.
What do you think about IS?
Silje Poulsen Viki: Oh, you should not ask my opinion about the IS.
So, you don’t want to comment about IS?
Silje Poulsen Viki: No.
Can you tell me about the rising of extremism in Europe?
Silje Poulsen Viki: This is one of the several topics that we show through the program in the film festival.
So, your colleagues can you introduce yourself.
Kari Nøst Hegseth: My name is Kari Nøst Hegseth and I am the press contact for the festival. As Silje is explaining here, we don’t put emphasis on our personal opinions about the issues and we program the issues that we feel need more attention. And then we invite panel or guests who we then allow to debate between them and with the audience. This is why we don’t want to express our own personal opinions on this because we want the festival to be an arena for debate with various opinions.
Silje Poulsen Viki: The foundation of festival started seven years ago and it was started as collaboration with various human rights organizations here in Oslo, Norway. And today we have approximately 25 collaborating human rights organizations. We support their work by giving them an arena to present their work to invite guests and also to bring in expert activists in the field of human rights.
I totally agree with you that freedom of discussion and debate are the first step towards establishing democratic institutions because with debate you can express yourself, talk about your rights and the rights of all humanity. Were there any media participant in this event and how many people participated in this event?
Silje Poulsen Viki: We had 130 in the audience for the ‘Lessons Learnt from the Arab Spring’ which was our first debate, and this debate both Maria Malkavaza, Zamila Rakhib, whom I mentioned sat in the panel together with Yaku Pegey from Peru.
With a wide spectrum of audience that discussed issues surrounding freedom of expression, human rights, the Arab Spring this seems to be quite a political conference that very moderately, positively and very intelligently urges for politics to align with human rights. There are many dictatorial regimes across the world human and fundamental rights are violated on a daily basis, where hundreds of human rights activists jailed, banished or disappeared. This year alone more than 66 journalists are killed while fighting for freedom of expression. Does this festival has some message for those regimes?
Silje Poulsen Viki: Human rights are violated around the world in various places. Of course there has been a particular focus on certain countries in the Middle East as a consequence of the uprising that started in 2011. But this is something that you should ask some of our guests that are actually activists on these issues rather than the organizers.
Kari Nøst Hegseth: The basic idea of the festival is to bring more attention to these issues. One of the central idea behind the festival is that we are paying attention and people care about these situations that we discuss through our programs. And I think that is our main motive behind this festival. We want to bring attention to situations of human rights violations that we feel are to be discussed enough in the Norwegian context and through the Norwegian media.
Silje Poulsen Viki: Because the documentary format is one of the best alternative format to share information. What we find very important to share them and the broader audience, we share it by screening it in our programs.
What does human rights mean to you as a person who is born in a civilized, democratic and a welfare society?
Silje Poulsen Viki: Human rights means something that we should all have regardless where we come from, regardless where we were born, regardless of our family background. It’s definitely something that we are all entitled to. We live in a country where we have better living situation compared to the vast number of other countries in the world. That does not mean that there is a lot we can do but we can try our best to make a better human rights situation across the world. We have means to do it: today we have excellent means of communication through which we can actually reach with each other to all the people around the world. This is a very powerful tool, when you are working for human rights.
Kari Nøst Hegseth: Well, it’s quite overlapping. To me human rights mean that you are born with the freedom to choose the life that you want to live. I think for us who have been lucky enough to be born in a place where we have that too. We have that option and I think that comes with responsibility as well: the responsibility of helping other people to achieve the same. Because I should say large portion of the world don’t have access to the information or the possibilities that we do and that comes with the responsibilities. So, for me being so privileged, as being Norwegian, it comes having all my human rights comes with the responsibility of helping others achieve the same.
Silje Poulsen Viki: Which we try to achieve through our festivals: to enlighten, to activate and to engage.
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