We aim at igniting interest on Human Rights issues: Ketil Magnussen, a Founder of the ‘Human Rights, Human Wrong’, tells The Oslo Times
Ketil Magnussen is a documentary filmmaker, Founder and Program Director of-Oslo Dokumentarkino (Oslo Documentary Cinema, which aimed at organising screenings of documentary films and debates on current social/political issues. ‘Human Rights and Human Wrong’s’, is one such venture that aims at raising awareness on pertaining human rights issues across the world and creating a platform where these issues can be raised and discussed.
This talented filmmaker in an exclusive interview with the Oslo Times Editor-in-Chief,Hatef Mokhtar, spoke about the concept behind the ‘Human Rights and Human Wrong’, film festival, freedom of expression and a whole lot more.
The excerpts below give us an insight into his views during the interesting talk that followed:
Can you tell me about ‘Human Rights and Human Wrong’?
Yes, the ‘Human Rights and Human Wrongs’, is a documentary film festival that was started in 2008 in collaboration with the Oslo documentary cinema and five other human rights organizations based in Oslo.
We got together in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Declarations and organized the festival in a very short period of time, we had all the films in one theater, a lot of debates, guest talks, and it was a success. So, after that year we decided to make it an annual event, and now we have come to the seventh edition of the festival.
Over the years the number we have seen an increase in the number of collaborating partners. This year we had 30 plus partner organizations that helped us shape the festival–by assisting us with the selection of themes, topics for good debates, finding interesting Norwegian and international guests and most importantly they have helped us put it all together.
So, we are more-or-less like a huge family of organizations that have come together to put the festival together.
Can you give us the names of the five human rights organizations that you collaborated with in the first year?
They were: The Human rights House Foundation, The Norwegian Burma Committee, The Health and Human Rights info, The Helsinki Committee and the last organization to take part that year was Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN).
From the second edition of the festival we already had several other organizations joining the network and working to organize the festival. If you look at our catalog you will find a huge number of United organizations, research institutes, educational institutions and media partners who are involved with this innovation.
Can you tell me a little bit about the objective of this festival?
The idea of this festival is to address human rights challenges both locally and internationally. So what we do is, we try to find the best films of the last year, that we think represents important human rights issues and create a context to the films in order to engage and involve the audience in the talks and debates and increase their interest in these issues.
Now a days hundreds of journalists and Human Right activists are behind bars in countries with totalitarian and dictatorial regimes, because of the lack of freedom of expression and media freedom in these countries. Do you have a message that you would like to give to those totalitarian regimes through this festival?
Well, our audience for this festival in particular is here in Oslo. We have international guests but what we do is mainly try engage people here to take part in the debate and to get them more engaged in these issues. After that in the end of the festival, hopefully they might support organizations or take part in the campaigns, whether it is Amnesty, Helsinki Committee that have international campaigns to put pressure on governments that oppress people and put human rights defenders in jail. I think that this is as much as we can achieve here. So,our main concern is to ignite their interest on these issues so that they can participate in human rights campaigns in an effort to create a better world.
Another question that’s very important to raise here is- Over the past few years we have witnessed the rise of extremist ideologies be it Islamic extremism or far right and left wing extremism, what do you think about such groups and do these , elements exist in Norway, like they do in many other European nations?
I think this is obviously a very complex issue and very difficult for me to explain or analyze or have a view on, I don’t, I have my views on what’s happening. I think there is lot of frustration around the world. In our country and other countries around the world. And this frustration, whether it is because of economic insecurity or its because of oppression or because of great injustices and killing, this frustration is the breeding ground for some kind of extremism that goes beyond what we would like to see as a political work.
So, I don’t think there is one explanation but you can say that extremism comes from this and is present in all countries, where you have people that become extreme in their ideas and their methods. The most dangerous form of extremism is violent extremism. I think you have to look at every case and see the background for this frustration and how it can be explained. And hopefully we can do a lot more on that in the coming years to understand how to avoid the growth of this type of extremism.
How do you see human rights situation in Norway?
Well, we have over the years brought up several topics that shows our views on why we feel human rights are not protected well enough in Norway. We have an event this year, its called Norwegian paradox, which is not so much about how human rights are cared for in Norway, but how Norwegian foreign policy and rest of the world can be seen in different ways. On one side we have our government which usually supports human rights and democracy in other countries if they have the opportunity to support it. But on the other hand through our investments we sometimes work against the promotion of human rights and democratic developments.
I think the whole point of this festival is to get people engaged and see that these are complex issues but we have to go into them, we have to create an opinion, we have to mean something,we have to act in it, we have to make decisions, we have to vote, we have to support human rights as a cause or improve condition for human rights and there are never an easy answers. That is why we have chosen to use films because on one hand documentary films today are extremely important source of information and supplement to the news you get through the main stream news media extremely important. It can also the film, documentary films, specially the long format can afford to go deeper into the topics show more of the complexities without making it impossible to understand, mean you can get an opinion and in-depth understanding of an issue. And that is what we are trying to do, to get people to engage even if the issues are complicated and complex.
Do you belong to a political party?
I don’t belong to any political party.
So you are not member of any political group?
No, I am not member of any political party, I never have been.
Don’t you have a political view?
Well,If you look at the scale in Norway, right from right to left, I belong to the left side of the scale the traditional left side on the political scale and I am trying to make that as obvious as possible, when we have our events, when I am in charge of organizing events because I want my audience to know where the information is coming from, what kind of choices I made, so that they can find it easier to interpret that information and also take part in the debate.Because I believe that you cannot be a neutral journalist or neutral conveyor of a message.Its not easy for me, to listen to someone, if I don’t know where they coming from. On-the-other hand if I know where they stand then I understand the message and information they are giving. Its easier for me to interrupt them and its easier for me to be critical, to their argument, if I understand where they are coming from. And this applies to my audiences as well, because its easy for them to criticize to the film or to debate on an issue if they know the view point of the organizing committee or the way we present the topic, so they can take part in that debate and share their own opinion. So, I am quite clear, about where I stand. In this festival of course there are different views involved, its not only me, we have different voices, different people organizing debates, different people with their own opinions, which makes the event diverse and brings in a pool of original views on a human rights issue.
Some countries believe that the Norway through various organizations, interferes in other countries internal issues, what do you think about this?
I know, but this is just a debate we will have to have, because you can’t tell someone to not get involved in a different country, if they think that they are people they should support and work with. For instance, we work completely without supporting any violent interference in other countries, we support international solidarity between people, we support human rights defenders in countries where they are oppressed.
So Yeah, you can have debates sometimes that have illegitimate influence. This could happen but we are trying our best and lastly we are trying to get everybody else involved and engaged in the protection of Human Rights.
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