The Uncensored Library

Translated By: Matilde São José

An alternative pathway to freedom of press

In a time where information travels around the world at a stunning speed, thanks to what the evolution of technology has allowed us to achieve in recent years, censorship is an element that is still very present in some countries under dictatorships, given the fact that the media present in those countries is a target of scrutiny and journalists a target of persecution by the government.

Considering this, a collective effort between different NGO’s who defend freedom of information was translated into the creation, on the 12th of March 2020, of an alternative pathway of diffusion that would be able to prevent censorship. Minecraft, an interactive game recognized worldwide that allows the construction of virtual worlds through blocks, hosts today a server/map that gathers millions of works of journalists that were killed, incarcerated, or exiled by restrict governments due to their publications. It is important to mention that the day of its launch corresponds to the World Day Against Cyber Censorship, celebrated also on March 12.

The Uncensored Library is a vast virtual library, launched by Reporters Without Borders – an NGO based in Paris – and created by BlockWorlds, DDB Berlin and MediaMonks (assembling 24 creators from 16 different countries), in an attempt to prevent the existing censorship nowadays. This project of digital neoclassical architecture covers all the 180 countries of the Freedom of Press Index (according to Reporters Without Borders), having a special focus on five countries that have a low Index – Egypt, Mexico, Russia, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia. Each of these five countries has a complete section of the library specially dedicated to them, containing several banned articles. Censorship takes different forms: in Egypt, freedom of information does not exist in any kind of way; Mexico is considered the country in which their journalists are most endangered, given the fact that government and cartel interference often culminates in the deaths of those who dare to spread information both within and outside the country.

Every publication (more than 200) will be available to anyone with access to Internet, no matter their geolocation, both in the original version and translated into English. The two ways of accessing the articles are the following: the connection to the server in question directly in the game or the download of the map, available on the original website of the project. It is possible to read, among the available books in online format, works from activists like Khashoggi – a journalist allegedly murdered by the Saudi Arabian government, after publishing opinion articles about the restrictive regime happening in the country. Additionally, articles from the Russian website are also present, this website was banished from the public’s access, as well as articles from the Egyptian portal Mada Masr. A department focused on Covid-19 was also later added, exposing the way censorship of the press has been impacting the report of information around the world throughout the pandemic – the latter includes books about 10 countries: Brazil, China, Egypt, Hungary, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, Thailand, and Turkmenistan.

The Uncensored Library has won, since its launch, several international awards – these include three Cannes Gold Lions (creative communication award) and a Clio Grand Prix. It is estimated that its existence has generated, until now, a total of 47.3 million interactions in social media, more than 25 million visits to the own library and a 62% growth of donations to the Reporters Without Borders NGO.

This virtual library has been proving to be a solid and fundamental element on the combat to press censorship, allowing to create, considering that the try of subverting the server would be a legal challenge, a kind of safe port to international information.

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