Pressbyrån and Reporters Without Borders recreate the voice of imprisoned journalist Dawit Isaak on World Press Freedom Day

On the 3rd of May, World Press Freedom Day, Pressbyrån and Reporters Without Borders are once again emphasizing the significance of free speech. This year, they have employed AI to restore the voice of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, who has been detained without trial in Eritrea since 2001.

With the help of ChatGPT-4, Pressbyrån and Reporters Without Borders have recreated Dawit Isaak's journalistic writing in an article that highlights the importance of press freedom in today's world. The article will be published digitally and in the print edition of Expressen, one of Sweden's leading news dailies, on May 3rd, thanks to a collaboration with the national newspaper.

“At Pressbyrån, we have worked for more than one hundred years to bring the free press to people all around Sweden, so highlighting the importance of press freedom today is one of the many ways we can nurture that legacy. Using AI felt like a highly relevant and exciting way to shine a light on this critical topic. We have also been very keen to involve and include Dawit Isaak’s family, who have given their permission for the project,” says Lennart Schultz, Marketing and Communications Manager at Pressbyrån and Reitan Convenience Sweden.

This article explores the importance of free speech using a dataset of 36,000 words from writer Dawit Isaak. The dataset includes both published and censored articles collected with the help of Reporters Without Borders and processed through an AI platform. The article was written in Isaak's style with input from his family and experienced journalists and can be read in Swedish, at Sweden's largest afternoon paper "Expressen" here

“Producing this text has been an emotional process. Reading the AI-generated results after having been able to read Dawit Isaak’s original pieces and feeling how the new text captured his spirit was overwhelming and huge. It feels like a great honour to be able to address such an important issue in this way,” say creators Stephanie Moradi and Caroline Andersson at Åkestam Holst NoA.

“There is a lot that can be said about AI and the huge challenges it poses in terms of press freedom, for example, but being able to return the voice of a journalist who has been imprisoned and gagged for almost twenty-two years felt huge. No other journalist in the world has been imprisoned as long, and yet today we can hear his voice,” says Erik Halkjaer, Chairman of Reporters Without Borders.

On World Press Freedom Day, which falls on May 3rd this year, Pressbyrån is providing a 50% discount on all newspapers and magazines in-store. Furthermore, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to support the efforts of Reporters Without Borders. The campaign will be promoted through various channels, including Expressen, print ads, outdoor billboards, and social media.

The article in English:

An Ode to Free Speech What do we do as the light of free expression begins to flicker, and the shadows of oppression creep closer? Have we got the courage to stand tall and defend that which constitutes the bedrock of our democracy? On this day – World Press Freedom Day – let us remind ourselves of a truth we must never forget: Press freedom is not something we can take for granted. On the contrary, it is a treasure that must be protected, monitored and revered. From the silenced streets of Eritrea to its prison cells, where voices are muffled and critical pens snapped in two, a yearning for change pervades. When a regime forbids and silences critical voices and imprisons and represses those who dare to speak the truth, the foundation of a free and open society is threatened. What price are we prepared to pay for free speech? We believe ourselves to be the residents of a free-speaking world, but are we brave enough to stand up for those cast into the shadow of oppression? Think of all the written words that were never read, all those voices that have shouted in the dark to be heard, to be acknowledged, to remind us that the battle for freedom of expression is far from over. The Eritrean regime has silenced its critics. And it doesn't just happen there – all over the world, journalists are gagged so that we can be denied the truth and manipulated into believing lies. This is the greatest threat to free speech of our age – and we must not underestimate it. Let us draw inspiration from those who dare to defy oppression, pave the way for our right to think freely, and defend press freedom. Let us take energy from that power which can only come from the truth, from the light of the free word that breaks through the darkness of oppression. Let us gather around the waterfall of emotions that rages through our shared struggle and takes form from the words we whisper, shout, and sing on freedom. Today, on World Press Freedom Day, let us stand united behind this – our conviction that we must fight to protect and preserve press freedom, and never take it for granted. We must be clear that when press freedom is curtailed, it is our very democracy that is put under threat. A society without a free press is no more than a world of shadows where the truth always falls astray.

Project Group
Pressbyrån/Reitan Convenience Sweden
Marketing Manager: Lennart Schultz
Campaign Manager: Adrienne Heurlin
Content Manager: Gabriella Matheny
PR: Harris Lukeman
Reporters Without Borders
Chairman: Erik Halkjaer
Operations Manager: Katarina Carlsson
Åkestam Holst NoA
Art Director: Caroline Andersson
Copywriter: Stephanie Moradi
Creative Director: Joakim Khoury
Project Manager: Natalie Pehar N’Doye
Project Manager: Lisa Voltaire
Production Manager: Bella Lagerquist
Planner: Patrik Lundberg
Web Developer: Kalle Peterz
Motion Designer: Eskil Lundberg, Nisse Axman
PR: Gabriel Francke Rodau
North Kingdom NoA
Technical Director: Peder Fjällström
Media Partner: Expressen
Media Agency: Carat

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