Witness magazine focuses on a host of long-term projects and investigative journalism.
Our goal is to provide an outlet for projects that are not published in their entirety by commercial publishers because of their editorial content or because of the length and complexity of the story.


Pasung: The Agony Of Chains
Every day thousands of mentally ill people are locked away in rooms, cells, cages, or animal sheds, restrained in chains or wooden stocks. Many are left naked, hungry, with no ability to wash, and vulnerable to malnutrition, assault, and rape. In Indonesia, this form of abusive “treatment” is called pasung. Condemned by Human Rights Organizations around the world, the practice continues unabated. Although pasung has been banned by the government since 1977, it continues to be the widespread traditional response to mental disorders throughout Indonesia. This story takes an in depth look at the situation and exposes the horrific conditions that these patient endure.



Albino: The Desperate Plight of the Tanzanian Albinos
Albinism is a deadly serious matter for those who suffer from it in Africa. An affected person’s skin has little or no melanin making them extremely vulnerable to the harsh effects of the sun. This condition can lead to skin cancer and blindness and other medical complications. They are the victims of serious social discrimination. There is little awareness that albinism is a genetic condition. This ignorance creates myths and superstitions of all kinds. Some think they are the children of the devil or that the mother had been with a white man. For many Africans a ‘white’ child is a stigma for the family: they are cared for less, given less to eat and educated less. In some tribes, albino children may be killed at birth, abandoned or offered for ritual sacrifice. Because of this, the Tanzanian government has found it necessary to set up special centers to protect people with albinism who have had to flee their villages. This story looks at this issue and shines a light on a situation that few people know exists.



The Terror Beneath: Confronting the Crisis of Landmines
Today it is estimated that there are over 110 million antipersonnel mines in seventy countries. The majority of these countries are in the developing world which do not have resources to remove the mines or care for the tens of thousands of victims injured by the explosions. This has become a global humanitarian crisis. Approximately one million people have been killed and maimed by antipersonnel mines. This story looks at the efforts being made to resolve the problem and eliminate this hideous terror.



Enchanted: Afro-Brazilian Subcultures
Slavery endured for three hundred and fifty years in Brazil. It was the most perverse, long-lasting, and lucrative business in the New World. Today, approximately 50% of the total population has Afro-descendants. One of the most effective forms of resistance was the evolution of Afro-Brazilian cults and celebrations. Despite the horrors and injustices of slavery, rich new social structures developed. The diversity of these cultural and religious manifestations, illustrates the persistence and vitality of numerous subcultures that thrive in Brazil today. Born from a hybrid seed, it gave rise to the Afro-Brazilian cultural trunk that sprouted hundreds of the uniquely diverse branches.



Cuba: An Island In Transition
Cuba is quickly approaching a crossroad. On December 17, 2014, President Obama and Cuba’s President Raúl Castro made the announcement that full diplomatic relations between the two countries would be restored.  This decision has created a new landscape for both countries, particularly for Cuba. The last fifty years have left Cuba in a unique position. It’s development as a nation has been continually checked by the pressure of international forces and events. Internally, its culture has been determined by the persona of one man, Fidel Castro. His passing will signify the end of an era. This issue looks at the situation as the next generation of Cubans confronts a myriad of complex decisions.



Islam In New York
Over the last two decades the Muslim community has grown significantly in New York. Islam has now become another intriguing tile that fits within the mosaic that defines the New York Metropolitan area. That said, it is not the same culture we do often associate with the Middle East. New York has always thrived on diversity. Islam has now become another component in that ever-changing landscape. This issue explores these developments and the impact it has on the metropolitan area.



An Uneasy Peace: Northern Ireland’s Search For Resolution
The Good Friday Peace agreement of 1998 brought a great deal of hope to the residents of Northern Ireland. After three decades of violence and civil conflict, a great sigh of relief resonated throughout the islands of the United Kingdom and Ireland. However, today Northern Ireland finds itself precariously perched atop an unsteady peace. Instability continues to plague the region followed by repeated outbursts of riots and violence. The sectarian conflict that affected the two communities of Protestants and Catholics has evolved. For many, life is better, but there is no lasting peace. This story explores the reality of the present situation.



Fracking: Energy Needs vs Environment
In the United States, hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has been the subject of widespread controversy for some time. This process is used to extract natural gas from underground. While the gas industry says that the extraction operations are safe, helps address the nation’s energy needs, & creates new jobs, there are also major concerns that gas-related byproducts harm the environment and those living in nearby areas. This story focuses on the complexity of the issue and a number of the people involved.



A Clear Path: Confronting The Education Achievement Gap
The “achievement gap” is the disparity in school performance between groups of students based on race, gender, and socioeconomic status. This issue looks at this ever-expanding problem in American education. The story examines the complexity of the situation and focuses on a number of programs and organizations that have positively addressed the issue.



Achondroplasia: Casting Away The Stigma
Achondroplasia is the most commonly recognized form of dwarfism. Fighting against the stigma associated with being a person of short stature is still the greatest challenge two young boys, who despite their differences are like anyone else – people with hopes, that dwarves, achondroplasiac or not, have to face on a daily basis. This story focuses on fears, and dreams trying to live a life of acceptance and meaningfulness.



Slaves Of Dubai
Construction in the United Arab Emirates is increasing at a fever pitch. This is made possible by the labor of scores of foreign workers. The story focuses on the exploitation of this labor force in one of the richest countries in the world. We witness the explosive growth of a nation at the expense of people who are not even its citizens.


Rural Healthcare In America – The Mississippi Delta
Healthcare has become a paramount concern for Americans. Providing all Americans with access to quality healthcare is one of the most complicated social policy issues of our time. In the United States, the divide is not just between rich and poor or the insured and uninsured. It is also about where you live –- in an urban or rural area. This story follows the doctors, nurses, community organizers and patients who are part of an innovative and well-planned healthcare network in the Mississippi Delta. The Delta is an area where the need for quality rural healthcare is great. The project presents an approach to community care that can provide a model for other parts of the country.

Link to Documentary Film



Living Stone
The story focuses on the exploitation of men, women and children working in the stone crushing industry in Jaflong, Bangladesh. More than 10,000 people work as stone laborers. The uncontrolled industry is harming the environment, endangering the health of workers, creating sound and air pollution, and shrinking the biodiversity of the region.



Coal’s Consequences
Coal generates half of America’s electricity. This issue focuses on coal production, energy needs and the impact production has on the culture and healthcare on the communities that produce it. This story takes place in West Virginia and revolves around communities that have a unique historical link to coal. The issue looks at global production and usage, new mining techniques, the increase in Black Lung Disease, the medical and benefit programs created to help disabled miners and the legal system that works against them

The Music Therapist
This issue focuses on a music therapist working with Music Therapy Institute in White Plains, NY. The story follows Lisa’s Sandagata helping people with disabilities find a way to communicate and connect to their world. The idea of using music for healing is not a new one. Music therapy is used to treat people with AIDS, Alzheimer’s, autism, developmental disabilities, mental health disorders, medical and surgical patients, hospice care patients, William’s Syndrome, and the needs of veteran’s with post-traumatic stress disorder. It is estimated that over 1.5 million people have received music therapy services in the U.S. in the past year.



International Shipping: Globalization In Crisis
Roughly ninety percent of the world’s goods are transported by sea with over seventy percent as containerized cargo. This process was streamlined in the 1950s when companies developed an intermodal system using standardized containers that facilitated efficient transfer between trucks, ships and trains through specialized terminals. International container shipping has made the
world smaller and the world economy bigger, but not without problems. This story illuminates the complexity of the situation.



Wheels and Heels: Dance As Therapy
This issue focuses on a group of professional dance instructors who have chosen to work with the disabled. The program gives this underserved, special needs population the opportunity to experience the joy of moving to music while developing strength, flexibility and self-confidence. It is called Wheels and Heels. In it, stand-up dancers work together with wheelchair dancers to create a unique and beautifully choreographed dance piece. An important goal for the project is to reduce the barriers confronting people with disabilities and to encourage the non-disabled community to redefine the meaning of ability.


Cancer Alley – Louisiana
In Louisiana, stretching 80 miles from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, there lays one of the most polluted areas of the United States. Because of the dense cluster of oil refineries, petro-chemical plants and other chemical industries, this area is known as Cancer Alley. Designated as an enterprise zone, loose oversight has enabled industry to release into the environment extremely toxic materials. Recent studies have found that the entire population of this region has been exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals and very little is being done to clean up the mess. Cancer and respiratory problems are widespread. Greenpeace has labeled Cancer Alley a Global Toxic Hotspot.



American Prisons
This issue focuses on prisons and incarceration. The United States has over two million prisoners locked behind bars on a given day. There are more people incarcerated in the United States than any other country in the world. American prisons hold 25% of the world’s prisoners, though the U.S. comprises only 5% of the world’s population. Unfortunately, in an attempt to lower expenses, funding for many rehabilitation programs has been decreased or discontinued. This has led to a revolving door crisis wherein the recidivism rates have soared to about 60%. This issue looks at the conditions and several programs set up for both men and women in prison.



The African Refugee Crisis
For decades, Africa has been afflicted by the horrors of war, refugees and famine. This issue focuses on situation across sub-Saharan Africa where millions of people have died due to the effects of armed conflicts. Currently, over one-quarter of sub-Saharan African states are engaged in either civil or interstate conflict, or both. Several other countries are threatened with imminent political, religious, or ethnic division. The United Nations estimates that there are 21 million internally displaced people and 5 million refugees in Africa. The promise of an “African renaissance,” deteriorated rapidly into severe instability across the continent and shows no sign of abating.



The Darkness Within
This issue looks at a Psychiatric Ward for Children at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. The purpose of the ward is to stabilize the patients and reduced or halted dangerous behavior until long-term care can be found. Using of therapeutic drugs and counseling, the story is an inside look at the difficult processes that defines the first and painful steps on the long road to possible recovery.



Blindness In India
India has the highest population of blind people in the world. This issue looks at the Indian government’s attempt to confront the problem by creating mobile eye care centers known as Cataract Camps and the help and intervention of the international organization, Project Orbis. Orbis has converted an airplane into a traveling eye hospital and education center. Their humanitarian efforts teach doctors, nurses and technicians - around the world - the newest advances in surgery, technology, and healthcare.



An Affirmation of Life – Summer Camps for Children with HIV
The burden of AIDS falls heavy on anyone who carries the HIV virus. For children, the burden is far more tragic. Their life is usually a solitary one confined to their immediate family and caregivers. This story focuses on two summer camps, one in New York and another in California, that gives these children the opportunity to have some fun and be just kids.



The National Guard Challenge Program
Every year approximately 57,000 boys and girls drop out of school. This issue looks at a special program designed to help young men and women get back on track, reshape their lives and earn a high school equivalency diploma. The program is called the National Guard Challenge. The goals of the program were education, skills building, discipline, teamwork and community service.