Amnesty International Wields a Censor's Pen

Campaign Highlights Lack of Free Speech in Belarus

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Brand: Amnesty International
Brand Owner: Amnesty International
Product Category: Charities
Date: November 2005
Country: Poland
Media Agency: ZenithOptimedia
Other Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Media Owner: Gazeta Wyborcza, Rzecpospolita

The following case study -- plus hundreds of other inspirational media ideas from around the world -- will be revealed and discussed at the Cream Masterclass in New York, June 15.

The central idea behind this campaign is the censor's black marker, the crossing out of words that offend autocratic regimes.
The central idea behind this campaign is the censor's black marker, the crossing out of words that offend autocratic regimes.

Twenty years ago the idea that someone could run a campaign in Poland protesting the lack of free speech in neighboring Belarus would have been regarded as surreal. It's a measure of how the political landscape has changed that this campaign for Amnesty International actually took place. The central idea behind this campaign is the censor's black marker, the crossing out of words that offend autocratic regimes. Translating that into media on Nov. 23 saw press and Web site front pages that had been liberally attacked with the censor's pen and radio and TV ads that were censored.

For Gazeta Wyborcza, it was the first time since 1989 that it had been published with a censored front page. The news titles also gave the campaign a viral element as anyone reading them in public would also communicate the message to passersby.

Ambient media was also used with pictures of prominent Belarussian dissidents stuck on lampposts with tape over their mouths, an emotive and effective statement. The aim of the campaign was to encourage Poles to write to protest to the president of Belarus. Nearly 400,000 did so via e-mail and visits to the Amnesty International Web site hit a record peak.

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