On March 12, 2020, an operation created to circumvent digital censorship of journalism was launched in the form of a project unlike any other. The medium of this project, called the “Uncensored Library,” is anything but standard digital publishing- it is a Minecraft server. According to an article by CNN, the Uncensored Library was created by the organizations Reporters Without Borders, Blockworks, DDB Germany and MediaMonks. The server features publications from journalists whose work has been banned in many different countries, with the goal of expanding to provide access to many more restricted nations.
The Uncensored Library server was designed to be a virtual library space. Within the coding of the game there exists books that one can label and write in. The creators of the server use this feature to copy the text of the censored articles they wanted to include into these digital books. An article by Cian Maher featured in The Verge refers to the server as a “virtual hub,” and as such it functions as a portal to the books of censored journalism themselves. Anyone with access to the game is able to access the articles. To read the writings within the Uncensored Library, one must log into the Minecraft online game and use the server listing to join the online server. From there, the player will be able to find the specific article they wish to read in its respective book.
Minecraft is an ideal platform for providing access to censored literature because of the fact that the typical censorship involved in publishing in a traditional news journal is not a problem in the video game. The Uncensored Library platforms these highly controversial publications because they are unpopular to oppressive governments, and seeks to protect access to articles that critique corrupt institutions. The slogan on the homepage of their website is the hashtag #TruthFindsAWay, with the implication that the server itself is one such “way.” Through the execution of this mission statement, the Library has created a space that expands digital publishing in a new and exciting way. Following the precedent set by this server, it is possible that video games will continue to innovate the world of online journalism.
The most prominent journalists featured in the Uncensored Library are listed below. These brave men and women risk their lives to write what they do and, in several cases, gave their lives.
- Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist. He was the head manager and editor of Al-Arab News Channel, as well as the editor of the Saudi newspaper Al Watan. He was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 when returning to the country for documents necessary for his marriage.
- Yulia Berezovskaia, a Russian journalist. She is editor in chief of the online news source grani.ru, an online publication dedicated to uncensored critique of the Russian government.
- Nguyen Van Dai, a Vietnamese human rights lawyer. He is the co-founder of the Vietnam Human Rights Committee and a pro-democracy activist who has been arrested many times for his work and ultimately exiled to Germany.
- Javier Valdez, a Mexican independent journalist. He was the founder of the newspaper Riodoce, a weekly dedicated to crime and corruption in Sinaloa. He was killed on May 23, 2017, for his work.
The content published in the Uncensored Library server is illegal in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Egypt, Russia, Vietnam, Belarus, Brazil, and Eritrea. There is also a “room” dedicated to transcribed content for Iran from Iran International, a US-based news TV channel that is banned in the country. Along with the works of the journalists listed above, the server also features digital publications from Mada Masr. This news site is an Egyptian, liberal, online publication created in 2013. It is officially banned in Egypt, but its articles are available to access through the Library server. All of the journalistic works in the Uncensored Library are published there with the goal of being informative and providing readers with the material to come to educated opinions on global news.
The Uncensored Library is a project inspired by the bravery of journalists and online publications around the world. There is always the possibility that, like the articles it hosts, the Minecraft server will be censored by the oppressive governments whose bans it seeks to circumvent. This would be unfortunate, but the creation of the server itself also comes with a spirit of freedom that transcends its medium. The goals of the Uncensored Library are attached to sentiments of independence from oppression and the right to free speech, both of which are concepts that cannot be quelled by any amount of bans or censorship. Journalists, human rights advocates, and people just like those who created the unique Minecraft server will always exist and carry with them an optimism of a future of prevailing truth.