How journalists are using Spotify to circumvent press censorship

For World Day Against Cyber Censorship, Reporters Without Borders Germany harness the power of music to tell stories in censored regimes with ‘The Uncensored Playlist’.

Reporters Without Borders Germany / DDB Berlin

Reporters Without Borders Germany teamed up with creative agency DDB Berlin to help journalists get their stories heard in countries with strict press controls. How? By making use of a clever loophole in uploading music to streaming platforms filled with stories that would otherwise be censored by regimes in countries like China, Egypt, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Music has always been a method of protest. From pre-emancipation blues to modern day punk movements involving the likes of Russian trio Pussy Riot, it’s been a way to tell tales and share struggles for as long as we’ve been making it.

And now, Reporters Without Borders Germany have found a new way to use music to bring truth to the people — uploading songs containing censored stories to streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music.

“The Uncensored Playlist shows oppressive leaders all over the world that they can’t silence freedom of information. More than a fundraising or awareness
effort, we’re happy to have landed on a unique way — music as a Trojan Horse, of sorts — to allow these censored stories to reach the world.” said Bianca Dordea, Managing Director at DDB Berlin.

It’s an ethos we can all share: truth always finds a way. Even more so in this digital age.

Reporters Without Borders Germany / DDB Berlin

A number of acclaimed journalists from around the world worked with local artists to craft a playlist of songs for each country involved in the project. The stories are then told within the lyrics in the native language of the respective countries.

The five countries targeted with the project have all been noted as areas of strict press censorship by the UN. Many journalists working in these countries fear reprisal if they don’t toe the government line.

Those journalists involved in the Uncensored Playlist? Exiled Chinese journalist Chang Ping, Egyptian journalist Basma Abdel Aziz, members of the Thai network for free journalism Prachatai, Uzbekistan’s Galima Bukharbaeva and Vietnamese blogger Người Buôn Gió (The Wind Merchant).

Top row: Vietnamese blogger Người Buôn Gió (The Wind Merchant), exiled Chinese journalist Chang Ping, and Egyptian journalist Basma Abdel Aziz. Bottom row: A member of the Thai network for free journalism Prachatai, and finally Uzbekistan’s Galima Bukharbaeva

These journalists operate in exile from their respective countries. This means none of them are at risk from being part of the campaign. Each journalist has worked with Reporters Without Borders Germany to share their deeply moving stories of press oppression —some of them featuring tales of corruption at the highest levels.

Two news stories from each of the five journalists are inserted within the lyrics of each country’s ‘albums’. Ten stories have now been able to bypass censorship controls in each country.

The local artists that worked with the journalists to transform these stories into songs have all had their names protected with aliases and musical identities being carefully hidden.

Reporters Without Borders Germany / DDB Berlin

Still, many residents in these press landscapes may find it hard to hear about the project in the first place. To allow the songs to spread their message, they were crafted to be as popular as possible in their native countries.

The idea is that the power of social media — along with the journalists being credited as the artists behind these songs — will act as an extra push to get these songs into the ear of all those seeking truth.

And what about those living in countries who might not be able to access the playlists? To tackle that, songs were uploaded to a variety of platforms, with Reporters Without Borders Germany ensuring that at least one of the streaming services is freely accessible in each of the targeted countries.

Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music are the platforms of choice for the journalists’ fight for truth and you can find the links at the bottom of this article.

Reporters Without Borders Germany / DDB Berlin

To make these stories accessible for worldwide listeners, the songs are available in both native languages and English.

Reiterating the need to be careful with these types of projects, the music has been released under the names of the journalists — ensuring that local artists are anonymous and completely safe from retaliation due to their involvement.

MediaMonks handled the digital production of the campaign, working with DDB Berlin to craft a website that tells stories of the ongoing journalists’ fight against being censored. All of the songs and stories can be found there.

The site is now live at


Listen at:



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