‘Stream’ing Live with Satellite Sentinel Project

On October 3, Enough Project Communications Director Jonathan Hutson and Nuba leader Nania Konda—who leads humanitarian relief efforts in the Nuba Mountains for the Nuba Relief Rehabilitation and Development Organization—appeared on the live Al Jazeera English news broadcast “The Stream.” The broadcast, which aired in the U.S. and 100 other countries around the world, focused on the Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, and the impact of its unprecedented approach to utilize cutting-edge satellite technology to document human rights atrocities in Sudan.

Actor and activist George Clooney and Enough Co-Founder John Prendergast hatched the idea for SSP last year during a trip to South Sudan, and the project launched in late December 2010. The fruition of the project, which is truly a collaborative effort between many organizations and institutions, consists of multiple layers, as Hutson explained during the interview.

The way the program works is that every day this lifesaving work is made possible by DigitalGlobe satellites that… fly over Sudan. Really the engine under the hood of SSP is our colleagues at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, led by Nathaniel Raymond and a group of interns who call themselves the ‘spy kids’ (...) Every day, they are tasking the DigitalGlobe satellites, which means they are telling the cameras where to shoot. They are also taking the lead in analyzing the imagery, and then they are writing up the reports, and a team at DigitalGlobe does additional analysis, and then weaves in information gathered from on-the-ground (...) that the Enough Project gathers, and then we push it out on our website and through Facebook and Twitter, and a company called Trellon helped us design the website using Google Map Maker—so it is quite a collaborative effort.  

Since its launch, SSP has published 19 reports documenting human rights abuses that include evidence of aerial bombings indiscriminately targeting civilians, mass killings, mass body disposal operations, and eight sites containing apparent mass graves. In its most recent report, SSP helped safeguard humanitarians and civilians by warning of a potential, indiscriminate bombing campaign in and around Kurmuk hours before it reportedly took place.

SSP’s reports combine satellite imagery and analysis, corroborated by eyewitness reports on the ground. During “The Stream” broadcast, Nania Konda Skyped in from Juba to speak about the project from a local perspective, and to discuss the implications of the project’s findings. The host, Derrick Ashong, asked Nania about the value of SSP in dealing with the conflicts in the region. She responded:

The Satellite Sentinel imagery are very, very important to me—it proves that what we’ve heard from the eyewitness is correct. But on the other hand it also breaks my heart, that one’s own government is committing such atrocities against its own people. But we have no one turn to except the international community, in the name of humanity, to intervene and do something.

Nanya called on the international community to respond to the atrocities that have been documented by the SSP. “I would like to see those who are responsible for committing these atrocities have been taken to justice,” she said.

Nanya also asked for the international community to push for an immediate cessation of the ongoing hostilities, access to the area for unbiased assistance and assessment of food and medical stocks, and for support to supplement the missed planting season that was affected by aerial bombings.

During the broadcast, comments and questions streamed in live via Facebook and Twitter. One
comment Tweeted from Kharthoum called SSP an “espionage project.” Hutson replied that SSP does conduct surveillance, transparently, and in the name of human rights, which is why George Clooney refers to SSP as the “anti-genocide paparazzi.” Hutson asked, “Why can’t we push it [the satellite imagery] out to the people around the world and begin to hold our governments accountable?”

Following the SSP segment on “The Stream,” Hutson served as a guest co-host for a lively discussion about the Occupy Wall Street, or OWS, protests with Skype guests who included an OWS protest organizer in Boston and John Perry Barlow, a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead and founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Hutson chimed in to discuss the OWS protests in the context of the Arab Spring, which he tied into the recent protests in Khartoum over skyrocketing prices.