December 7 was Student Day in Iran, a day when students traditionally commemorate the deaths of three Iranian students who were protesting the Shah in 1953. This year, the Student Day protests were especially poignant because they demonstrated that Iran's Green Movement is still very much alive. And, like the post-election protests in June, news about the demonstrations was delivered to the world via tools like Twitter and YouTube.
It's easy to get excited about the potential power of the internet to fight government impunity, curb human rights abuses, and induce democratic reforms in authoritarian states. New Media experts like see enormous potential in social media.
UPDATE, 7 JANUARY 2010: As groundviews' citizen journalist Sanjana Hattotuwa tells us in the comments field below, the UN has just confirmed the authenticity of the video and called on the Sri Lankan government to take appropriate action. Read the full press release here (thanks Sanjana!).
UPDATE, 15 DECEMBER: According to an independent investigator specializing in video forensics hired by The Times (UK), the Sri Lanka execution video is indeed authentic. According to the investigator, who is an instructor at the FBI National Academy, the video contains no evidence of editing, digital manipulation, or other special effects, but does contain subtle details consistent with a real shooting, such as smoke coming from gun barrels after shots are fired. Additionally, the expert found strong evidence that actors were not used - at that range, blanks would still cause serious injury or death, and the victims fall backward in a very realistic motion after being shot. The video was also found to have an embedded code matching the software found in Nokia mobile phones (The Sri Lankan government's investigators had claimed the video was shot on a sophisticated camera, not a mobile phone, as Channel 4 News had said).
Also contributing to the mounting evidence against the Sri Lankan government are the statements of retired General Sarath Fonseka, who claims that Sri Lankan Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, ordered the army to shoot surrendering Tamil leaders rather than imprison them. Fonseka is currently running for president against Rajapaksa, and has said he is not against a war crimes investigation.
UPDATE, 26 OCTOBER: Two new claims have been made concerning the veracity of the Sri Lanka video and investigations into its authenticity. Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), a U.S.-based pressure group, sponsored a study of the video by an as yet unnamed U.S.-based forensics company. According to TamilNet, the study found that the video was not tampered with or doctored. The study also cast doubt on the Sri Lankan inquiry that deemed the video fraudulent, stating that the experts had analyzed a second generation video from News Channel 4's Web site, not the original footage.