Forbidden Stories was launched in 2017 in France as a joint venture by Reporters Without Borders and Freedom Voices Network after the murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Malta. Forbidden Stories established a consortium of local and international media outlets to publish uncensored reports for public access and create global resonance for “forbidden stories.” This collective works with threatened journalists to seek accountability for crimes against the press and offers them tech solutions for the risks associated with their reporting. The SafeBoxNetwork is a free platform with end-to-end encrypted communication solutions that allows journalists to store sensitive investigation materials. In cases where journalists are inhibited from continuing their activities, they can request fellow journalists in the Forbidden Network to continue their investigation. The authors can leave instructions for publication and research as well as share information about security, the intentions of those attempting to censor them, and background on the targets of their reporting through SafeBox encrypted channels. Forbidden Stories works with 60 media partners and more than 150 journalists, from 49 different countries, in coordinating and establishing collaborative investigations and publications. Forbidden Stories has a subsidiary company, Forbidden Films, which produces documentaries related to the written content in co-productions. The initiative generates revenue by selling images and films produced by its members.
In March 2020, Forbidden Stories started a series of publications as part of their Rapid-Response Investigation projects. This program focused on censored COVID-19-related stories. Cases included banning, arrests, and threats to journalists exposing facts, such as the actual death counts in authoritarian countries.
Theory of Change
Providing virtual tools to secure investigative materials and fostering a support network of journalists internationally promotes accountability, reporting freedom, and public access to uncensored news.
Forbidden Stories has supported major investigative projects exposing corruption, human rights, environmental, and public health malfeasance. The Pegasus Project investigates the misuse of surveillance technology by governments for purposes of silencing and threatening dissent and critical press. The Daphne Project furthers the research of Daphne Caruana Galizia on corruption in Malta despite her murder. The Cartel Project continues the work of murdered journalist Regina Martinez investigating the global networks of Mexican drug cartels and the global networks linked to multinational weapons and the synthetic drug trade. The Green Blood Project in India, Tanzania, and Guatemala continue the work of 29 murdered environmental journalists on the human and ecological price of the mining industry by tracing the cultivation of sand, nickel, and gold. The Mining Secrets Project investigates aggressive tactics used by mining giants to drain environmental resources and exploit vulnerable communities residing nearby the mines. In addition to their main projects, Forbidden Stories has initiated Rapid-Response investigations following the murders and harassment of journalists in Ecuador, Mexico, Ghana, and Morocco.
More than 16.1 million people read the Daphne Project, and 74 million have heard about the Project from independent media sources. The Daphne Project revelations sparked political protests in Malta. The Maltese Prime Minister and three other government members have resigned due to alleged complicity in her murder. The European Commission, European Parliament, and Council of Europe created an ad hoc commission to investigate Daphne’s killing and appointed a rapporteur to monitor the rule of law in Malta. The Daphne Project continues to investigate leaks on 17 companies linked to corruption cases. The Green Blood Project's research was used in the Forbidden Films subsidiary production of the “Green Blood” documentary, which was broadcasted on French public television; it was viewed by half a million individuals and purchased by Amazon Europe. The Cartel Project gathered 60 journalists from 25 international media outlets across 18 countries. Its findings point to synthetic drug trade spanning China, India, U.S., Netherlands, and Belgium. The Project has been published by 25 international media outlets, republished by media across 20 countries, and reached 32 million readers, listeners and viewers internationally. Following the publication, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador committed to reopening the case of Martinez’s murder. Reports were used in Forbidden Films' production of “Cartel Project”–the winner of the Europa 2020 best documentary series award.