Master Class with The Venerable Luon Sovath
As part of the Human Rights Week at the University of Geneva, The Venerable Luon Sovath, the 2012 Martin Ennals Award winner, gives a master class titled “Social Media: A double-edged sword in Human Rights Defence” on November 23, 2021, from 12:30 - 14:00.
Venerable Sovath is a Buddhist monk and human rights activist from Siem Reap, Cambodia. In March 2009 he witnessed the forced eviction of his family and fellow villagers from their homes, without reason and in most cases without compensation. This unfortunate event pushed him towards human rights activism.
Venerable Sovath was compelled to flee his native Cambodia in May of 2020, after fake videos and accusations appearing on Facebook served as the bases for a decision to ‘de-frock’ him of his monk’s robes. In retaliation for his advocacy against land grabbing and in favour of human rights, Venerable Sovath and his loved ones have suffered years of threats and reprisals by the authorities of Cambodia. Finally, the prospect of losing his religious freedom convinced Venerable Sovath that his position in Cambodia was untenable and he soke a temporary safe haven in Switzerland.
Because the fake evidence used against Venerable Sovath circulated on Facebook, the case also has critical lessons for the role of social media in upholding human rights. During his segment, he will discuss the story of how he became a human rights activist, and how social media can be a double-edged sword in the fight for human rights; as it gives visibility to the defenders but also puts them at risk. He will focus on social media as a tool of liberation and repression; and also discuss how a lack of accountability by these social media companies can play a role in the repression of human rights defenders.
This master class is hosted by the Martin Ennals Foundation and the Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights.