Amid the growing threat to journalists’ safety in many parts of the world, a collaborative project called Forbidden Stories is working towards combating this unsettling trend by pursuing the stories of journalists who can no longer continue their work because they have been threatened, imprisoned or killed.
Initiated by the non-profit organization Freedom Voices Network, Forbidden Stories offers journalists under threat a secure way to store data and information related to their reporting, vowing to continue and publish their investigations in the event that they are jailed or killed in connection with their work. Additionally, those involved in the project hope it will aid in removing incentives to hurt journalists.
“I think that most of the time when journalists are killed, they are killed for the information and for the stories they try to publish,” said Laurent Richard, the founder and executive director of Freedom Voices Network.
“So, I think it doesn’t make sense for anybody to try and make a bad attempt against one journalist if they know that this journalist has already backed up the story and that it’s already in the hands of 10 or 20 other journalists ready to follow it up if anything happens to the journalist.”
Securing sensitive information
The website of the project features detailed instructions on how to securely send messages and documents, using Signal, SecureDrop or encrypted email, with the promise of keeping backups safe and, if this has been requested, continuing an investigation in case a journalist is no longer able to do so. As to not endanger those currently making use of the service, Richard can’t reveal how many journalists have been in contact or where they are based.
Defeating censorship with collaborative journalism
In light of its launch at the end of last October, Forbidden Stories published three short-form videos highlighting the murders of Mexican journalists Miroslava Breach, Javier Valdez, and Cecilio Pineda, and their investigations into corruption and drug cartels that presumably led to their death. Videos of this kind, of which the project’s staff members will continue to produce more, are translated into up to nine languages and published across Forbidden Stories’ own platform and social media channels in order to reach as large an audience as possible.