Forbidden Stories

Our history

Forbidden Stories was founded by Laurent Richard who, after years of covering conflict zones and dictatorial regimes, was directly confronted with the threats suffered by his fellow journalists. It was notably following the imprisonment of investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova in 2015, while Richard was filming a documentary on corruption in Azerbaijan, that he became convinced of the need to provide a journalistic response to attacks on the press.

Moved by this conviction, he drew inspiration from previous similar initiatives, such as the 1976 murder of Don Bolles, who was killed by a bomb explosion beneath his car in Phoenix. In the days that followed his death, the organization Investigative Reporters and Editors gathered 38 journalists from all over the U.S. to finish Bolles’ investigation.

In 2016, Richard was selected as a Knight-Wallace fellow at the University of Michigan. During this year-long fellowship, he developed the concept of a global network of journalists whose mission would be to pursue the investigations of silenced reporters: thus began Forbidden Stories.


2017. Forbidden Stories was founded in 2017 by Laurent Richard and was launched at a conference in Washington D.C. in November.

2018. In April 2018, Forbidden Stories published the Daphne Project, the first international investigation it ever coordinated, several months after the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

2019. To expand the reach of its work, Forbidden Stories created a documentary production subsidiary named Forbidden Films, which enabled the organization to broaden its audience.

2021. With the Pegasus Project, Forbidden Stories and its partners sparked the biggest cyber-surveillance scandal since the Snowden revelations. Through this investigation, Forbidden Stories revealed the existence of over 50,000 potential victims of the spyware sold by Israeli company NSO Group, including at least 180 journalists as well as activists, politicians and several heads of states.

2022. Forbidden Stories began deploying the SafeBox Network in 2022 to enable some of the world’s most threatened journalists to safeguard their work. In Mexico, Nigeria, Colombia, Iraq, the Philippines and elsewhere, over a hundred journalists at risk have joined this network since its launch. If they are abducted, imprisoned or murdered, Forbidden Stories and its partners will be able to pursue their investigations and publish them worldwide.

2023. With the Rafael Project, which continued the work of Colombian journalist Rafael Moreno, Forbidden Stories pursued for the first time the work of a reporter who had protected his sensitive information with the SafeBox Network before he was murdered.

Today. Since its inception, Forbidden Stories has won numerous awards, including the prestigious European Press Prize and the George Polk Award. It has also been recognized by some of the world’s most threatened journalists as being of public utility in guaranteeing access to information. In the words of 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa: “If you stop the story today, it will come back tomorrow.”

Forbidden Stories has succeeded in rallying people around its mission, and its network now comprises over 150 investigative journalists and 90 media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Guardian, and Le Monde, among many others. Forbidden Stories also coordinates the SafeBox Network with the support of over a dozen local organizations. The organization currently has a staff of 22 people.

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