"Information is the first step towards change. That’s why access to free, independent information is essential in a democracy." The Uncensored Library works to celebrate and commemorate those who have given their lives in order to protect the ideals of free speech.
On World Press Freedom Day, governments are reminded of their commitment to respect freedom of press. This day is equally significant in establishing ongoing support for media outlets which continue to be a target for the restraint or abolition of press freedom. It is also a time in which many take pause to reflect and remember those who have lost their lives in order to provide others with the truth.
Today, as we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, we reflect on projects such as the Uncensored Library (featured in Temples of Books) which strive to provide open spaces where information can be accessed by all, regardless of their geo-political standing.
To circumvent censorship by authoritarian regimes, Reporters Without Borders used a digital library in a computer game to publish incisive pieces by persecuted journalists worldwide.“Where the media cannot report on injustice, there can be no public oversight or freedom of opinion. That’s precisely what authoritarian regimes are trying to achieve,” says Kristin Bässe. As a PR officer at Reporters Without Borders in Berlin, she and her colleagues all over the world strive to promote freedom of the press against censorship.
Previously, the authorities would only interfere with reporting in newspapers and TV programs, but today social media, blogs, and websites are also subject to control in authoritarian systems. In order to get around this kind of censorship, Reporters Without Borders, design collective BlockWorks, advertising agency DDB, and digital production company MediaMonks came up with the ingenious solution of the Uncensored Library. Articles and reports by brave journalists that have been censored elsewhere are freely accessible in this digital library, which exists on a secure server for the popular computer game, Minecraft.
“Minecraft is one of the biggest computer games in the world, with more than 126 million active players per month. The game is also available worldwide, even in places where authoritarian regimes block the internet and censor the media,” explains Bässe.
With only a Minecraft account needed in order to visit the library, a hundred people can be in the library at the same time, reading articles and writing messages to each other, to shed further light on the situation in their countries. “A player from Germany can communicate with another from Egypt,” says Bässe.“They can wander through the library together and chat about articles censored in Egypt.”
The Uncensored Library works to celebrate and commemorate those who have given their lives in order to protect the ideals of free speech, and open access of information. As Bässe reflects,“Libraries are a source of information. But also a repository of expertise when it comes to evaluating and classifying information and sources,and that’s where it gets political: information is the first step towards change. That’s why access to free, independent information is essential in a democracy. At the same time, it’s about being able to disseminate information freely. Freedom of information is a human right, and that’s exactly what the library symbolises.”
Read more about The Uncensored Library, and other libraries around the globe, seeking to curate and preserve knowledge accumulated over time, and take a look at Temples of Books, a collection of the most magnificent libraries around the world.