The Self Censoring Ad


Case Film
Supporting Images
Supporting Images






On January 1:st, a new Espionage Act came to effect in Sweden, criminalizing whistleblowers, leading to censorship and threatening free speech as we know it. To shine a light on this alarming development, Reporters Without Borders launched a self-censoring campaign in collaboration with Sweden’s largest newspaper, creating an ad that demonstrated how objective journalism is literally fading away.

The ad, featured in the December 31 edition, was partially printed with a specially designed Co2-sensitive ink. Just in time for January 1st, the ad began to censor itself.


We wanted to literally show the swedes how the new law could affect news reporting. By combining innovative ink with traditional print media, we were able to do just that.

By printing selected parts of the ad with Co2-sensitive ink, we showcased the dangers of the new espionage act, in real-time. After leaving the printing press, the message changed as the ink gradually disappeared. By midnight the following day, readers were left with a harsh example of how journalism was about to change, for the worse.


Our objective was clear; bring nationwide attention to the alarming threat the new Espionage Act pose to objective journalism. Recognizing this, our strategy was to stage an intervention right where most Swedes turn for unbiased, transparent reporting. As the leading national newspaper, Dagens Nyheter serves as the trusted compass to over 1,2 million daily readers. In collaboration, we could create a timely demonstration of the potential censorship of news coverage, in the place where people expect it the least. By amplifying our warning across social channels, we managed to not only speak to DN’s readership; we sparked a much-needed nationwide awakening of the largely overlooked threatening development.


The special ink we used is a CO2-sensitive ink, which means that it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and undergoes chemical reactions that make it colorless after a few hours.

By placing the ad printed with this ink, in the December 31st edition of Dagens Nyheter, Swedens biggest newspaper, we made a traditional ad into a real time reminder of how the new Espionage Act would effect news reporting from one day to another.


On January 1:st, a new Espionage Act came to effect in Sweden. An amendment to the constitution that criminalized whistleblowers, leading to censorship on a whole new level.

By displaying the consequences of this law in a very literal way, we put things into a local context to grab people’s attention, and also, equally important, underline Reporters Without Borders long-term fight for free journalism.

In Sweden most people take these things for granted, thus, the topic risks falling off the radar. With the self-censoring AD, placed in the country’s largest Newspaper, we offered an up-dated talking piece on the subject matter.

The timely placed comment (the ad ran on the same day as the legislation came into effect), was widely shared, debated, quoted, and referred to during the upcoming weeks of debate on a national media level.

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