Using broad dissemination of the IRCT anti-torture TV spot, the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Centre for Trauma Victims attempts to raise greater awareness of torture among ordinary citizens.
Rehabilitation centres and programmes carry out diverse activities to mark the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture each 26 June. Many of these utilise mass media in an attempt to reach the broadest audience possible. Last year, centres and programmes throughout the world were aided in this effort through the dissemination of an anti-torture TV spot produced for the IRCT by Spanish director Isabel Coixet. The TV spot sends the message that unlike a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tsunami, “you can do something to stop torture”.
Changing attitudes about torture
In 2006, the Dhaka-based Bangladesh Rehabilitation Centre for Trauma Victims (BRCT) was interested in whether broadcasting the spot would result in changing public perceptions of torture. There is a significant lack of awareness about the prohibition against torture among Bangladeshi citizens. A 2002 survey by the Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights found that 63% of respondents did not know that torture was prohibited under their nation’s constitution. Torture is routinely used by police and is rarely punished by the government.
The TV spot was translated into the local language and picked up by local cable television stations in 64 districts across Bangladesh and aired at minimum, five times a day for 15 days. Following the broadcast, the BRCT conducted a random survey of 400 persons across 20 districts to gauge their understanding and impression of the spot.
The response to the TV spot was overwhelmingly positive. Only 4% of respondents felt they could not understand the message, and the majority of respondents answered the open-ended question about what they learned from the spot with “torture should never be accepted”.
Lessons for other countries
The BRCT notes that any campaign to eradicate torture must begin by sensitising the local population to the message that torture is unacceptable and preventable. Therefore, the centre recommends mass awareness media campaigns, such as the TV spot, to spread this message broadly to reach the greatest number of people. The BRCT plans to utilise the TV spot for future 26 June campaigns, and encourages other centres and programmes to find ways to communicate with the public in easy-to-understand formats, to create public groundswell in support of the anti-torture message.