In the fight for Human Rights: Amnesty International Czech Republic and Havas Worldwide Prague Create ‘Future Presidents’ Campaign with Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela

The freedom to dissent is an integral part of society and one that has helped shape government policy and democracy the world over. Nelson Mandela Day, held July 18, is a reminder to communities and non-profits to continue fighting for those whose voices are no longer heard.

Czech Amnesty International’s most recent campaign — Future Presidents — launched in the beginning of 2017, does just that. The brain child of Havas Worldwide Prague created posters using the iconic faces of Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel, as well as a 360 degree view of a prison environment in Russia on the website, Prison Exit. The hope of both Amnesty International and Havas Prague is to create a conversation regarding the conditions of prisoners of conscience currently being held in prisons throughout Russia.

Vaclav Havel — a prisoner of conscience who became the President of the Czech Republic

“Our thought process,” explains Petr Cech, copywriter on the Future Presidents campaign, “was to create something that would garner the attention of both older and younger audiences. By using the faces of Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela — who would later become presidents of their respective countries — we wanted to draw a parallel by highlighting that the next president of Russia could very well be in prison at this moment.”

Nelson Mandela — Future President campaign short-listed for Cannes Lions 2017

The campaign, translated into English, Czech and Russian, was distributed to Amnesty International networks in Europe. The Czech entity used the campaign to communicate the situation of prisoners of conscience in Russian prisons by visiting cultural events and festivals in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

“When many people first saw the video they were disturbed,” Martin Balcar, Campaign Advisor at Czech Amnesty International said, “There were a lot of questions; people wondering if it was real footage from a prison, questions about the people being held and what they might be able to do to help.”

The posters and video have differentiated Amnesty International from other non-profits and have allowed their team to engage with their targeted audience — the coveted 14–25 year olds. “The posters and website have been incredibly successful and at this moment we’ve received over 10,987 signatures to pressure the Russian government to release Sergej Nikiforov and Rafis Kashapov.”

In fact, the Prison Exit website and posters went viral on social media tallying 81,000 views on YouTube and over 145,000 views on MBN360 on Instagram. The St. Petersburg television station– Russia Channel 5 — picked up the story and came to Prague to counter the campaign. “If Russia TV sends four people to Prague to investigate the campaign then you know it had an impact on Russian society,” Balcar continued, “Remember, many of these people are not jailed because of their political views; the government says they have been jailed due to corruption, drugs or other criminal offenses. These falsehoods are used to show these people as criminals and not prisoners of conscience.”

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