Project Exile: Moroccan journalist Hicham Mansouri flees after being stripped and jailed

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This article is part of Index on Censorship partner Global Journalist’s Project Exile series, which has published interviews with exiled journalists from around the world.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”107703″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]When the security software on Moroccan journalist Hicham Mansouri’s computer alerted him that there had been a number of attempts to hack his email, he did what came naturally: he began investigating. 

Little did he know that the 2015 incident would be followed by a bizarre effort by Moroccan police to sexually humiliate him and a female friend and ten torturous months in jail after being arrested on trumped-up charges of operating a brothel and adultery, which is illegal in the North African nation. 

Efforts to prosecute or intimidate journalists are not unusual in Morocco, and as Mansouri’s story demonstrates, the government of King Mohammed VI can be both cruel and creative in its efforts to silence dissenting voices. The kingdom ranks 135th out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index, below nations like Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and the Philippines. Morocco was also named in a 2018 report from the Canadian Citizen Lab as a country where Pegasus spyware is used to track mobile phones of civil society activists. 

Mansouri himself, a co-founder of the Moroccan Association of Investigative Journalists, had already been beaten up by strangers in September 2014 after leaving a meeting at a hotel with the Moroccan historian and prominent dissident Maâti Monjib. Even today, after 10 months in jail on adultery charges, two hunger strikes and three years in exile in France, Mansouri faces pending charges of threatening state security in Morocco. These stem from his involvement with StoryMaker, an app that helps citizen journalists create video reports based on events they witness. 

Yet Mansouri remains undaunted. Now living in France, he blogs for the French online investigative and opinion site Mediapart and contributes to the Italian newspaper Caffe Dei Giornalisti as well as the online site of Maison des journalistes, a group that provides housing to journalists in exile. Mansouri spoke with Global Journalist’s Gaëlle Fournier about his imprisonment, his continuing legal troubles and life in exile. Below, an edited and translated version of their conversation:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Hicham Mansouri was beaten up on September 24, 2014. (Photo: Ahmed Bensedik)

Hicham Mansouri was beaten up on September 24, 2014. (Photo: Ahmed Bensedik)

Global Journalist: Tell us about your journalism career.

Hicham Mansouri: I worked for a regional newspaper called Machahid in [the southern coastal city of] Agadir and then for the non-governmental organisations Free Press Unlimited and International Media Support in Rabat. 

In 2009, I participated in an investigative journalism programme. With some colleagues, we decided to create a network of Moroccan investigative journalists. The association was recognised in 2011, two days after the Arab Spring began in Morocco. I was then programme director of the association, but now the association has ceased its activities. The website of the AMJI [Moroccan Association for Investigative Journalism] was hacked and replaced by pornographic content. We were censored and received threats.

GJ: How would you describe the environment for the press in Morocco?

Mansouri: Freedom of the press is differentiated geographically. If you’re living around Casablanca or [the capital] Rabat, more things are tolerated than they are in the countryside.

There are what is commonly called the three “red lines” in Morocco. These topics are likely to be censored: Islam, the monarchy and the issue of Western Sahara [a territory claimed by Morocco]. 

All independent newspapers that have addressed these issues have been punished by the authorities. Editors have been put in jail, so they cease their activities. There is a lot of self-censorship

Some journalists are even in trouble for translating foreign articles into Arabic. Not many people read newspapers in Morocco as there is a high illiteracy rate. The journalists who get in trouble are [often] the broadcasters. 

GJ: You spent 10 months in jail after being arrested for adultery and operating a brothel. This came right after you began investigating the electronic surveillance of journalists and activists, including yourself.

Mansouri: I was working on an investigative piece about electronic surveillance when I got arrested by the police in 2015. I’m not a cybersecurity specialist, but thanks to software, I found the IP addresses [of the cyber attacker]. They were protected by malware and I decided to investigate. I tried to delete the two addresses but found that they could not be deleted.

I found this strange, so I contacted the creator of the [security] software who indeed told me that there was something wrong. 

Three days later, I was arrested. It was around 10am on a morning back in 2015. I was seeing a female friend and five minutes after she arrived, the police broke down the door of my apartment and forced me to undress.

They also tried to undress the woman in order to stage a scene showing us engaged in adultery. The police filmed the entire thing from the beginning. 

At trial, we asked the police video be shown as proof of what happened, but they refused. They only showed pictures they took of me, almost naked, on my bed. They also said they found a used condom on the bed. 

I had been assaulted a few months prior to this, so I was really paranoid. I found out later that I had been watched by the police for a few months prior to my arrest. 

GJ: You were later jailed on the adultery charge. Tell us about your time behind bars.

Mansouri: It was very hard. I felt the invisible hand of repression and it followed me everywhere. 

The first day in jail, I was thrown in a cell with [serious] criminals, while I should have been assigned to the what’s called Block A, which is reserved for first-time offenders like me. I was sent to Block D, which the inmates call “the trash,” the worst of all. The cell was overcrowded. I had to sleep on the floor in unsanitary conditions. Within a week I was infested with lice. 

The worst was the violence I witnessed, including fights between inmates and self-harm. I even thought some of the fights were orchestrated to kill me. 

I went on two hunger strikes, which eventually led the authorities to provide me with some books and newspapers and assign me to a block with inmates suspected of terrorism, who were watched by policemen. 

I tried to survive and write about my memories in jail. This diary project is not so much about sharing my experience, it’s about telling the stories of the inmates I met, who came back from Syria, were tortured, used drugs. However, my experience in jail is not unique. It is one all activists and journalists [jailed in Morocco] have to go through.

Hicham Mansouri being welcomed out of the prison by his friend and colleague Maâti Monjib, who was nominated for an Index on Censorship Award for Campaigning in 2017. Monjib, a historian and writer, along Hicham Mansouri and five other journalists, is accused of endangering Moroccan state security. Their trial has been postponed 14 times since its start in 2015.

Hicham Mansouri being welcomed out of the prison by his friend and colleague Maâti Monjib, who was nominated for an Index on Censorship Award for Campaigning in 2017. Monjib, a historian and writer, along Hicham Mansouri and five other journalists, is accused of endangering Moroccan state security. Their trial has been postponed 14 times since its start in 2015.

GJ: Even though you’re in France, you still face trial in Morocco on “suspicion of endangering state security” along with six co-defendants. This charge was also brought against you in 2015 and the trial has been postponed 14 times.

Mansouri: It began with a citizen journalism project called StoryMaker, created in partnership with Free Press Unlimited and The Guardian. We are officially accused of falsifying videos and photos with this app, which we created to be a reporting tool for citizens. 

The authorities told me that “investigation” is the work of the police, not the media. We are even accused of spying and diverting funds from state-owned media. There is no evidence for any of this.

Every time there is a hearing [in Rabat], the file is not even open and the trial is postponed to another date. It’s like the sword of Damocles. Before, we used to defend our innocence. But now we just want the matter brought before a judge for a decision, whether it’s for or against us. 

GJ: Even after you were jailed, you did a major environmental investigation. What did you find?

Mansouri: In 2016, I did an investigation about Morocco importing 2,500 tons of toxic industrial waste from Italy. The toxic industrial waste was burnt to make cement in Morocco, something that is strictly forbidden in Europe.

Based on documents, it revealed the existence of indirect links between cement works owned by the king’s holding company and an international environmental business tied to the Italian mafia. It was published by the news site Lakome2, whose founder is actually being prosecuted for “sympathising with terrorism”.

GJ: How did you decide when was the right time to leave Morocco?

Mansouri: I made the decision to leave my country when I was in jail. I did not tell anyone. The physical and psychological torture I experienced led to my exile. My first day in prison, I had tachycardia [abnormally fast heartbeat], and I was beaten by a prison guard. I really felt suicidal. I felt like I was suffocating, not able to speak, to cry, to scream. I was ready to do anything to leave this hell. 

I decided to leave Morocco when I learned that the judge who sent me to jail [for adultery] was also the one who was going to work on the state security case. I know how he proceeds and it did not portend anything good.

When I learned this, I had been in jail for six months. It was a nightmare. It was as if I was in a bottomless pit. Everything was dark. I could not bear staying five more years in jail when I could have spent those years studying for a PhD. 

GJ: What are your plans for the future?

Mansouri:  Living in exile is far from being easy. You have to start for scratch.

I was mostly busy over the past two years with my asylum application, which was a real obstacle course.

I’m now working on an observation project on hate speech in several countries of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region like Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt for the NGO MENA Media Monitoring. We have published two reports so far. I continue to fight for what is happening in Morocco, I keep on testifying to show the truth. I’m publishing from time to time articles on my Mediapart blog. I’m also finishing my master’s in political science[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_video link=”″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship partner Global Journalist is a website that features global press freedom and international news stories as well as a weekly radio program that airs on KBIA, mid-Missouri’s NPR affiliate, and partner stations in six other states. The website and radio show are produced jointly by professional staff and student journalists at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, the oldest school of journalism in the United States. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Don’t lose your voice. Stay informed.” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_separator color=”black”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship is a nonprofit that campaigns for and defends free expression worldwide. We publish work by censored writers and artists, promote debate, and monitor threats to free speech. We believe that everyone should be free to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution – no matter what their views.

Join our mailing list (or follow us on Twitter or Facebook). We’ll send you our weekly newsletter, our monthly events update and periodic updates about our activities defending free speech. We won’t share, sell or transfer your personal information to anyone outside Index.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][gravityform id=”20″ title=”false” description=”false” ajax=”false”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content”][vc_column][three_column_post title=”Global Journalist / Project Exile” full_width_heading=”true” category_id=”22142″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

#IndexAwards2017: Maati Monjib and the cost of free speech in Morocco


2017 Freedom of Expression Awards linkA well-known academic who teaches African studies and political history at the University of Rabat since returning from exile, Maati Monjib co-founded Freedom Now, a coalition of Moroccan human rights defenders who seek to promote the rights of Moroccan activists and journalists in a country ranked 131 out of 180 on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. His work campaigning for press freedom – including teaching investigative journalism workshops and using of a smartphone app called Story Maker designed to support citizen journalism – has made him a target for the authorities who insist that this work is the exclusive domain of state police. For his persistent efforts, Monjib is currently on trial for “undermining state security” and “receiving foreign funds.” He faces much persecution by police and isn’t allowed to travel.

“We lead an everyday struggle to defend citizens, journalists and artists who are persecuted and slandered,” Monjib told Index on Censorship.

Monjib has twice been on hunger strike, in September and October 2015, resulting in the lifting of his ban on leaving the country. A ban was also lifted on three of his co-accused, two leaving for France and one for Holland, who now continue their struggle for freedom of expression and freedom of the press in their host countries.

In November 2016, the Administrative Court decided that Freedom Now is completely legal. On the same day, a dozen policemen, two in uniform, broke into Monjib’s home and harassed family members and neighbours.

See the full shortlist for Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards 2017 here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” equal_height=”yes” el_class=”text_white” css=”.vc_custom_1490258749071{background-color: #cb3000 !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Support the Index Fellowship.” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:28|text_align:center” use_theme_fonts=”yes” link=”|||”][vc_column_text]

By donating to the Freedom of Expression Awards you help us support

individuals and groups at the forefront of tackling censorship.

Find out more

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Global heroes battling censorship announced in Index Freedom of Expression Awards shortlist

  • Judges include actor Noma Dumezweni; former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown
  • Sixteen courageous individuals and organisations who fight for freedom of expression in every part of the world

A Zimbabwean pastor who was arrested by authorities last week for his #ThisFlag campaign, an Iranian Kurdish journalist covering his life as an interned Australian asylum seeker, one of China’s most notorious political cartoonists, and an imprisoned Russian human rights activist are among those shortlisted for the 2017 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards.

Drawn from more than 400 crowdsourced nominations, the shortlist celebrates artists, writers, journalists and campaigners overcoming censorship and fighting for freedom of expression against immense obstacles. Many of the 16 shortlisted nominees are regularly targeted by authorities or by criminal and extremist groups for their work: some face regular death threats, others criminal prosecution or exile.

“The creativity and bravery of the shortlist nominees in challenging restrictions on freedom of expression reminds us that a small act — from a picture to a poem — can have a big impact. Our nominees have faced severe penalties for standing up for their beliefs. These awards recognise their courage and commitment to free speech,” said Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of campaigning nonprofit Index on Censorship.

Awards are offered in four categories: arts, campaigning, digital activism and journalism.

Nominees include Pastor Evan Mawarire whose frustration with Zimbabwe’s government led him to the #ThisFlag campaign; Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian Kurdish journalist who documents the life of indefinitely-interned Australian asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea; China’s Wang Liming, better known as Rebel Pepper, a political cartoonist who lampoons the country’s leaders; Ildar Dadin, an imprisoned Russian opposition activist, who became the first person convicted under the country’s public assembly law; Daptar, a Dagestani initiative tackling women’s issues like female genital mutilation that are rarely discussed publicly in the country; and Serbia’s Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK), which was founded by a group of journalists to combat pervasive corruption and organised crime.

Other nominees include Hungary’s Two-tail Dog Party, a group of satirists who parody the country’s political discourse; Honduran LGBT rights organisation Arcoiris, which has had six activists murdered in the past year for providing support to the LGBT community  and lobbying the country’s government; Luaty Beirão, a rapper from Angola, who uses his music to unmask the country’s political corruption; and Maldives Independent, a website involved in revealing endemic corruption at the highest levels in the country despite repeated intimidation.

Judges for this year’s awards, now in its 17th year, are Harry Potter actor Noma Dumezweni, Hillsborough lawyer Caiolfhionn Gallagher, former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, designer Anab Jain and music producer Stephen Budd.

Dumezweni, who plays Hermione in the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, was shortlisted earlier this year for an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress. Speaking about the importance of the Index Awards she said: “Freedom of expression is essential to help challenge our perception of the world”.

Winners, who will be announced at a gala ceremony in London on 19 April, become Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards Fellows and are given support for their work, including training in areas such as advocacy and communications.

“The GreatFire team works anonymously and independently but after we were awarded a fellowship from Index it felt like we had real world colleagues. Index helped us make improvements to our overall operations, consulted with us on strategy and were always there for us, through the good times and the pain,” Charlie Smith of GreatFire, 2016 Freedom of Expression Awards Digital Activism Fellow.

This year, the Freedom of Expression Awards are being supported by sponsors including SAGE Publishing, Google, Vodafone, media partner CNN, VICE News, Doughty Street Chambers, Psiphon and Gorkana. Illustrations of the nominees were created by Sebastián Bravo Guerrero.

Notes for editors:

  • Index on Censorship is a UK-based non-profit organisation that publishes work by censored writers and artists and campaigns against censorship worldwide.
  • More detail about each of the nominees is included below.
  • The winners will be announced at a ceremony at The Unicorn Theatre, London, on 19 April.

For more information, or to arrange interviews with any of those shortlisted, please contact: Sean Gallagher on 0207 963 7262 or [email protected]. More biographical information and illustrations of the nominees are available at

Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards nominees 2017



Luaty Beirão, Angola

Rapper Luaty Beirão, also known as Ikonoklasta, has been instrumental in showing the world the hidden face of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos’s rule. For his activism Beirão has been beaten up, had drugs planted on him and, in June 2015, was arrested alongside 14 other people planning to attend a meeting to discuss a book on non-violent resistance. Since being released in 2016, Beirão has been undeterred attempting to stage concerts that the authorities have refused to license and publishing a book about his captivity entitled “I Was Freer Then”, claiming “I would rather be in jail than in a state of fake freedom where I have to self-censor”.  

Rebel Pepper, China

Wang Liming, better known under the pseudonym Rebel Pepper, is one of China’s most notorious political cartoonists. For satirising Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and lampooning the ruling Communist Party, Rebel Pepper has been repeatedly persecuted. In 2014, he was forced to remain in Japan, where he was on holiday, after serious threats against him were posted on government-sanctioned forums. The Chinese state has since disconnected him from his fan base by repeatedly deleting his social media accounts, he alleges his conversations with friends and family are under state surveillance, and self-imposed exile has made him isolated, bringing significant financial struggles. Nonetheless, Rebel Pepper keeps drawing, ferociously criticising the Chinese regime.

Fahmi Reza, Malaysia

On 30 January 2016, Malaysian graphic designer Fahmi Reza posted an image online of Prime Minister Najib Razak in evil clown make-up. From T-shirts to protest placards, and graffiti on streets to a sizeable public sticker campaign, the image and its accompanying anti-sedition law slogan #KitaSemuaPenghasut (“we are all seditious”) rapidly evolved into a powerful symbol of resistance against a government seen as increasingly corrupt and authoritarian. Despite the authorities’ attempts to silence Reza, who was banned from travel and has since been detained and charged on two separate counts under Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act, he has refused to back down.

Two-tailed Dog Party, Hungary

A group of satirists and pranksters who parody political discourse in Hungary with artistic stunts and creative campaigns, the Two-tailed Dog Party have become a vital alternative voice following the rise of the national conservative government led by Viktor Orban. When Orban introduced a national consultation on immigration and terrorism in 2015, and plastered cities with anti-immigrant billboards, the party launched their own mock questionnaires and a popular satirical billboard campaign denouncing the government’s fear-mongering tactics. Relentlessly attempting to reinvigorate public debate and draw attention to under-covered or taboo topics, the party’s efforts include recently painting broken pavement to draw attention to a lack of public funding.


Arcoiris, Honduras

Established in 2003, LGBT organisation Arcoiris, meaning ‘rainbow’, works on all levels of Honduran society to advance LGBT rights. Honduras has seen an explosion in levels of homophobic violence since a military coup in 2009. Working against this tide, Arcoiris provide support to LGBT victims of violence, run awareness initiatives, promote HIV prevention programmes and directly lobby the Honduran government and police force. From public marches to alternative awards ceremonies, their tactics are diverse and often inventive. Between June 2015 and March 2016, six members of Arcoiris were killed for this work. Many others have faced intimidation, harassment and physical attacks. Some have had to leave the country because of threats they were receiving.

Breaking the Silence, Israel

Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organisation consisting of ex-Israeli military conscripts, aims to collect and share testimonies about the realities of military operations in the Occupied Territories. Since 2004, the group has collected over 1,000 (mainly anonymous) statements from Israelis who have served their military duty in the West Bank and Gaza. For publishing these frank accounts the organisation has repeatedly come under fire from the Israeli government. In 2016 the pressure on the organisation became particularly pointed and personal, with state-sponsored legal challenges, denunciations from the Israeli cabinet, physical attacks on staff members and damages to property. Led by Israeli politicians including the prime minister, and defence minister, there have been persistent attempts to force the organisation to identify a soldier whose anonymous testimony was part of a publication raising suspicions of war crimes in Gaza. Losing the case would set a precedent that would make it almost impossible for Breaking the Silence to operate in the future. The government has also recently  enacted a law that would bar the organisation’s widely acclaimed high school education programme.

Ildar Dadin, Russia

A long-term opposition and LGBT rights activist, Ildar Dadin was the first, and remains the only, person to be convicted under Russia’s 2014 public assembly law that prohibits the “repeated violation of the order of organising or holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches or picketing”. Attempting to circumvent this restrictive law, Dadin held a series of one-man pickets against human rights abuses – an enterprise for which he was arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment in 2015. In November 2016, website Meduza published a letter smuggled to his wife in which Dadin wrote that he was being tortured and abuse was endemic in Russian jails. The letter, a brave move for a serving prisoner, had wide resonance, prompting a reaction from the government and an investigation. Against his will, Dadin was transferred and disappeared within the Russian prison system until a wave of public protest led to his location being revealed in January 2017. Dadin was released on February 26 after a supreme court order.

Maati Monjib, Morocco

A well-known academic who teaches African studies and political history at the University of Rabat since returning from exile, Maati Monjib co-founded Freedom Now, a coalition of Moroccan human rights defenders who seek to promote the rights of Moroccan activists and journalists in a country ranked 131 out of 180 on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. His work campaigning for press freedom – including teaching investigative journalism workshops and using of a smartphone app called Story Maker designed to support citizen journalism – has made him a target for the authorities who insist that this work is the exclusive domain of state police. For his persistent efforts, Monjib is currently on trial for “undermining state security” and “receiving foreign funds.”

Digital Activism

Jensiat, Iran

Despite growing public knowledge of global digital surveillance capabilities and practices, it has often proved hard to attract mainstream public interest in the issue. This continues to be the case in Iran where even with widespread VPN usage, there is little real awareness of digital security threats. With public sexual health awareness equally low, the three people behind Jensiat, an online graphic novel, saw an an opportunity to marry these challenges. Dealing with issues linked to sexuality and cyber security in a way that any Iranian can easily relate to, the webcomic also offers direct access to verified digital security resources. Launched in March 2016, Jensiat has had around 1.2 million unique readers and was rapidly censored by the Iranian government.

Bill Marczak, United States

A schoolboy resident of Bahrain and PhD candidate in computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, Bill Marczak co-founded Bahrain Watch in 2013. Seeking to promote effective, accountable and transparent governance, Bahrain Watch works by launching investigations and running campaigns in direct response to social media posts coming from activists on the front line. In this context, Marczak’s personal research has proved highly effective, often identifying new surveillance technologies and targeting new types of information controls that governments are employing to exert control online, both in Bahrain and across the region. In 2016 Marczak investigated several government attempts to track dissidents and journalists, notably identifying a previously unknown weakness in iPhones that had global ramifications.

#ThisFlag and Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwe

In May 2016, Baptist pastor Evan Mawarire unwittingly began the most important protest movement in Zimbabwe’s recent history when he posted a video of himself draped in the Zimbabwean flag, expressing his frustration at the state of the nation. A subsequent series of YouTube videos and the hashtag Mawarire used, #ThisFlag, went viral, sparking protests and a boycott called by Mawarire, which he estimates was attended by over eight million people. A scale of public protest previously inconceivable, the impact was so strong that private possession of Zimbabwe’s national flag has since been banned. The pastor temporarily left the country following death threats and was arrested in early February as he returned to his homeland.

Turkey Blocks, Turkey

In a country marked by increasing authoritarianism, a strident crackdown on press and social media as well as numerous human rights violations, Turkish-British technologist Alp Toker brought together a small team to investigate internet restrictions. Using Raspberry Pi technology they built an open source tool able to reliably monitor and report both internet shut downs and power blackouts in real time. Using their tool, Turkey Blocks have since broken news of 14 mass-censorship incidents during several politically significant events in 2016. The tool has proved so successful that it has begun to be implemented elsewhere globally.


Behrouz Boochani, Manus Island, Papua New Guinea/Australia (he is an Iranian refugee)

Iranian Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani fled the city of Ilam in Iran in May 2013 after the police raided the Kurdish cultural heritage magazine he had co-founded, arresting 11 of his colleagues. He travelled to Australia by boat, intending to claim asylum, but less than a month after arriving he was forcibly relocated to a “refugee processing centre” in Papua New Guinea that had been newly opened. Imprisoned alongside nearly 1000 men who have been ordered to claim asylum in Papua New Guinea or return home, Boochani has been passionately documenting their life in detention ever since. Publicly advertised by the Australian Government as a refugee deterrent, life in the detention centre is harsh. For the first 2 years, Boochani wrote under a pseudonym. Until 2016 he circumvented a ban on mobile phones by trading personal items including his shoes with local residents. And while outside journalists are barred, Boochani has refused to be silent, writing numerous stories via Whatsapp and even shooting a feature film with his phone.

Daptar, Dagestan, Russia

In a Russian republic marked by a clash between the rule of law, the weight of traditions, and the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalism, Daptar, a website run by journalists Zakir Magomedov and Svetlana Anokhina, writes about issues affecting women, which are little reported on by other local media.  Meaning “diary”, Daptar seeks to promote debate and in 2016 they ran a landmark story about female genital mutilation in Dagestan, which broke the silence surrounding that practice and began a regional and national conversation about FGM. The small team of journalists, working alongside a volunteer lawyer and psychologist, also tries to provide help to the women they are in touch with.

KRIK, Serbia

Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) is a new independent investigative website which was founded by a team of young Serbian journalists intent on exposing organised crime and extortion in their country which is ranked as having widespread corruption by Transparency International. In their first year they have published several high-impact investigations, including forcing Serbia’s prime minister to admit that senior officials had been behind nocturnal demolitions in a Belgrade neighbourhood and revealing meetings between drug barons, the ministry of police and the minister of foreign affairs. KRIK have repeatedly come under attack online and offline for their work –threatened and allegedly under surveillance by state officials, defamed in the pages of local tabloids, and suffering abuse including numerous death threats on social media.

Maldives Independent, Maldives

Website Maldives Independent, which provides news in English, is one of the few remaining independent media outlets in a country that ranks 112 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. In August 2016 the Maldives passed a law criminalising defamation and empowering the state to impose heavy fines and shut down media outlets for “defamatory” content. In September, Maldives Independent’s office was violently attacked and later raided by the police, after the release of an Al Jazeera documentary exposing government corruption that contained interviews with editor Zaheena Rasheed, who had to flee for her safety. Despite the pressure, the outlet continues to hold the government to account.