Today is 15th August, so I’ll start by wishing Happy Independence Day to all our friends in India! Today is also the first day back in the office after our Summer Shindig on Friday evening, so we’re busy counting up how much money we raised and how many petition postcards we got signed – and, of course, washing the dishes and putting away all the materials. This is the second year that we’ve had a Summer Shindig but both of them have gone extremely well and it’s quickly becoming an established part of our outreach work.
Events like this can be fun. It’s a great chance for Tibet supporters to come together and celebrate Tibetan culture and activism, meet like-minded people, eat momos, enjoy a good film, eat more momos... But it’s also an effective way of drawing in new people who might not have heard about what’s happening in Tibet.
Reaching these new people and constantly building the level of support for Tibet is such an essential part of our work and it’s why we also go to festivals during the summer. We really enjoyed being at Womad a couple of weeks ago. It’s a great place for outreach and raising awareness. We also met quite a few existing supporters – one person came by the tent just to give us a hug, which was lovely. I always enjoy meeting our supporters in person and hearing about what keeps them motivated.
Tibet doesn’t get into the mainstream news as often as it used to. This is partly because we’ve all become accustomed to the kind of media content available from other countries. Some truly awful things have happened across the world this year and we’ve become used to seeing live tweets, mobile phone video footage instantly uploaded to the internet – all of this closely followed by news teams arriving on the scene in person, interviewing witnesses, talking to experts… The volume of information can be overwhelming at times but at least it’s there. Everything we could possibly want to know is on our phones, our tablets, our TVs and computer screens. When something happens in Tibet we’re lucky if we get one grainy photograph several days after the incident and the person who sent that photograph or details of the incident will have taken a considerable risk in doing so.
Tibetans take these risks because they want the world to hear their voice and know what’s happening inside Tibet. Your support helps us ensure this happens.
In the current climate of information overload, it’s easy to assume that if you’re not hearing about something then it’s not happening. This isn’t the case in Tibet. Things are happening all the time but getting the information past the Chinese firewall requires either a lot of skill or a lot of bravery, and sometimes both, on the part of Tibetans inside Tibet. Then the Tibet Watch team has to piece together different bits of information, build up the full picture, check it, verify it and try to do all of that securely, without putting anyone in any additional danger. It can be very disheartening when Free Tibet then takes that information to the media and journalists tell us they aren’t interested.
Things are happening all the time [in Tibet] but getting the information past the Chinese firewall requires either a lot of skill or a lot of bravery, and sometimes both...
So, again, it’s very important that we’re able to communicate with people directly and share Tibet’s news through as many different channels as we can. You can help us do this. We need people to sign petitions – this helps us put pressure on governments and companies. We need people to donate – this is the only thing that funds the campaign and enables us to keep going. But we also need people to share information, talk to your friends, family and colleagues, and help us get the news from Tibet to as many people as possible. Each photo, each detail, has been extremely hard won - someone has risked arrest and the possibility of torture in a Chinese prison. Tibetans take these risks because they want the world to hear their voice and know what’s happening inside Tibet. Your support helps us ensure this happens.
Today is also the day that our billboards go up in London and New York. We’re letting people know that Tibet today is the ‘Land of the Unfree’ but that, with enough support, this can change, Tibet can be free.
Eleanor is Director of Free Tibet and also of our research partner Tibet Watch. She joined the movement professionally in April 2013, having previously been Director of Casework for legal charity Amicus, where her work focused on the death penalty in the US. With a law degree and an MA in human rights, Eleanor has worked for many other campaigns and projects, including One For Ten, PeaceBrigades International, the Burma Human Rights Documentation Unit and the British Institute of International & Comparative Law. She has been a supporter of Free Tibet since her student days and has supported the Tibetan cause for over 20 years. Read updates from her on Twitter and each month on our blog.