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In many countries, journalists have to fight censorship when trying to publish critical stories. The organization Reporters Without Borders has launched a website to publish stories otherwise suppressed by the censors.
When something is banned, it's bound get people curious. Videos and images that are suppressed, therefore, often spread like wildfire on the Internet: the topless photos of Kate Middleton, future queen of England, were online everywhere within hours. And it's this principle that Reporters Without Borders now wants to use for journalistic content.
"We believe that there has to be a platform to publish stories that are being censored in the very countries where they should be published," Matthias Spielkamp, board member of Reporter Without Borders in Germany, told DW. The focus is explicitly on well-researched features by journalists who, because of a lack of press freedom, cannot publish their stories in their country's newspapers, TV or radio.
The website is not meant to be platform like WikiLeaks and is not intended to be a place for tabloid stories, Spielkamp explained. The project is getting financial support from the European Union, the city of Paris and from donations.
Support for censored authors
One of the first stories published is from Morocco, where Omar Brouksy is no longer allowed to work as a publisher. In October, the government withdrew his accreditation because the journalist had been overly critical of the royal family's role during a recent election.
Brouksy's text, however, continues to be available online. Reporters Without Borders published the piece in agreement with the author on their website, wefightcensorship.org. Online with text, the page also explains why each story is being censored.
The website offers to publish any material that's being censored in an author's home country. Articles are sent anonymously, and in a way that the author's identity cannot be traced. Reporters Without Borders, which itself does ask for the author's identity to check whether the story is credible, offers to keep the writers anonymous for their own protection, explained Spielkamp.
Should the stories not be written in English or France, they will be translated for the page. All the material will also be offered for download, and even outright copying of an entire work is encouraged. Readers can post the stories on social media networks as well as on a list of regional services.
More security than a blog
The Internet offers many options to journalists and citizens to spread information online. Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, for instance, is well known despite being faced with censorship in her country. She manages to circumvent the many obstacles to publish her stories, and her popularity partly protects her from the consequences of her dangerous work.
Spielkamp, however, warns of trying to do something similar without the help of his organization. "It's often very dangerous for journalists in authoritarian countries to start their own platforms," he explained. It's also often easy to trace the identity of the authors.
The team behind wefightcensorship.org, though, promises anonymity – both to the authors and the protagonists of the stories – and at the same time guarantees the credibility of each work. "It's striking a balance," said Spielkamp. "With every story you have to assess: Is this credible to us? Can we publish this or not?"