On World Press Freedom Day, the newspaper unveiled a map in the game CS:GO that features a war-torn Slavic city. The map includes a secret room that displays uncensored footage of the invasion of Ukraine in Russia, which allows players to access independent journalism on the topic.
The map created by the newspaper is called ‘de_voyna’, which is a nod to the Russian word for ‘war’. Interestingly, the Russian government has banned the use of this word to describe the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
Speaking with Reuters, Antero Mukka, editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat said, “As we have been widely concerned about the press freedom situation and freedom of speech in Russia, we decided that maybe it’s possible to find some new channels to provide Russian audience with some reliable, independent journalism for example about the situations in Ukraine.”
Bypassing restrictions to create awareness
Initially, Helsingin Sanomat started publishing news articles in Russian to reach out to the Russian audience, but later their content became inaccessible.
After realising that Counter-Strike has a large following in Russia, especially among young men, the newspaper team decided to leverage the game to circumvent the restrictions and provide information about the situation in Ukraine to Russian citizens.
“If some young men in Russia, just because of this game, happen to think for a couple of seconds what is going on in Ukraine then it’s worth it,” he added.
Valve Software, the company behind Counter-Strike, has not issued a statement regarding the map. The Steam company may allow the map to stay up – considering it still operates in Russia despite the likes of Nintendo and Sony pulling their games from Russia in support of Ukraine.