uncensored library
Credit: The Uncensored Library

Reporters Without Borders has taken its work to protect freedom of speech and information to the virtual world of Minecraft, in an effort to engage younger audiences and raise awareness of the need to defend journalists around the world.

Minecraft, which has 112 million monthly players, is a virtual environment where users can explore a blocky world, extract materials and build structures.

Players can enter a library built out of 12 million blocks with dedicated wings for five different countries with press freedom issues. They can then open books in the game and read a selection of 25 stories that are censored in those respective countries, including work from the late Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was murdered in 2018.

Head of the project Kristin Bässe explained that the younger age of players of the game was an opportunity to engage that demographic, with 20,000 visits since it launched earlier this month.

"Younger people don’t really access news from traditional platforms so this is a way to reach and engage them with the topic of press freedom.

"We want them to be able to read, inform themselves and have access to free information."

The Uncensored Library

The library's dome, which features a map of the organisation's Press Freedom Index

Bässe added that whilst they wanted to bring awareness of press censorship to younger people's attention, they had to be careful about the articles featured in the library to ensure they were age-appropriate, and avoid putting featured journalist in danger.

The platform also acts as a loophole for people in countries with press censorship to access those articles, as Minecraft is available without restrictions almost everywhere.

The library is protected against potential hacking attacks and cannot be vandalised, with 13,000 users also downloading an offline version in case the library disappears.

Reporters Without Borders has experimented in the past using unorthodox ways to reach audiences with its work and allow people to see censored content. The organisation launched The Uncensored Playlist in 2018, turning censored stories into pop songs.

In the coming months, the organisation hopes to expand the project with 'extensions' to the library to cover articles from other countries.

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