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The Best Stories of 2015, Handpicked by the Global Voices Community

PHOTO: Public domain (CC0) from from Pixabay.com

PHOTO: Public domain (CC0) from from Pixabay.com

This story was compiled and edited by L. Finch and the Global Voices community.

With the end of 2015 approaching, our social media news feeds are awash with lists counting down the best of the year gone by. But how do you measure what's “best”? By how many clicks a story received? By how many likes it got on Facebook?

As Global Voices is a community-driven newsroom, we thought we'd go to the source and ask our editors, authors and translators from around the world which stories published on our site in 2015 were their favorites. What follows is a year-end review of our best stories, as chosen by our hard-working contributors.

1. Kabul Taxi Is Blocked on Facebook. Long Live Kabul Taxi!

For Suzanne Lehn, co-editor of Global Voices’ Lingua project in French, the story Kabul Taxi Is Blocked on Facebook. Long Live Kabul Taxi! by Najiba Madadi was “by far my favorite.” It profiled the late great Kabul Taxi page on Facebook, run by an anonymous author who detailed his imaginary experiences ferrying high-profile passengers in his fictional cab. Their political discussions, while fanciful, touched on very real issues plaguing the country—that is, until Facebook blocked the page following a complaint from the president’s national security adviser.

Suzanne said about the story:

It sheds an unusual light on daily life in Afghanistan which is not only about war and encroaching extremism as we may imagine from what we read or watch in mainstream media. It has humor both in the facts described and the storytelling. The way those people react is universal, we can identify with them.

2. Remembering Uruguay's Disappeared Through the Eyes of a Photographer

Contributor Elizabeth, who lives in Santiago, Chile, but is originally from Mexico City, was touched by Remembering Uruguay's Disappeared Through the Eyes of a Photographer by Fernanda Canofre. The story highlights photographer Juan Urruzola's series of portraits of individuals who disappeared during the country's dictatorship, photographed against the backdrop of the capital city's landscapes.

“I though it was a small but powerful piece,” Elizabeth said. “Very emotional.”

Fernando Miranda, the first one of the dictatorship's disappeared found in Uruguay | Photo: Juan Urruzola/Reproduced under authorization

Fernando Miranda, the first one of the dictatorship's disappeared found in Uruguay | Photo: Juan Urruzola/Reproduced under authorization

3. Creating a Media of Empathy One Letter at a Time

It was Global Voices Francophone editor Lova Rakotomalala‘s personal experience that led him to choose Creating a Media of Empathy One Letter at a Time as his favorite story of 2015. The post features the back-and-forth correspondence between Lova and Nigeria author Nwachukwu Egbunike on the importance of inspiring empathy in readers through our reporting—especially in light of extremist violence around the world and the divisive rhetoric that follows—and the challenges inherent in doing so.

“Instead of emphasizing our shared humanity, media shone the lights on the extremes that would turn people against each other,” Lova said:

It is a difficult momentum to combat because it seems most of us love to watch the incoming train wreck. But I do believe that we are also responsible for making sure that we try to understand each other. This post tries to unpack that: empathy vs othering, etc., and it does so by having a conversation.

4. Five Top Tweets: Iranians Ridicule Censorship on the ‘Filternet’

Author Arzu Geybullayeva, who lives in Istanbul, chose Five Top Tweets: Iranians Ridicule Censorship on the ‘Filternet’ by our partner Small Media, a brief piece curating Twitter commentary mocking Iran's sluggish and censored Internet.

“Because this is so close to home and rings a bell when it comes to both Azerbaijan and Turkey where I currently live,” she said.

As runners-up, Arzu also pointed to This City in Siberia Would Rather Elect a Cat Mayor (“I am a big fan of RuNetEcho project”) and Facebook Vows to Improve Real Name Policy. But How Far Will They Go? (“This is something I was part of drafting so I was thrilled to see this go live and picked up by outlets in the US as well as the Facebook”).

5. The Enormous Mural That Made a Mexican Neighborhood ‘Magical’

Caribbean editor Janine Mendes-Franco in Trinidad and Tobago loved the uplifting message behind The Enormous Mural That Made a Mexican Neighborhood ‘Magical’ by Giovanna Salazar. It told the story of the largest graffiti mural in all of Mexico, painted onto 200 homes in the city of Pachuca, Hidalgo. The project created jobs, reduced youth violence and instilled a sense of community spirit in the struggling municipality.

“It makes you realise the power communities have to be a force for good if they can only harness it,” Janine commented.

Las Palmitas and the “macro mural” in its final stage. Photo taken with permission from the Germen Crew collective's Facebook page.

Las Palmitas and the “macro mural” in its final stage. Photo taken with permission from the Germen Crew collective's Facebook page.

6. Precarity and Resilience in Calais

Japan editor Nevin Thompson, who splits his time between Japan and the Vancouver area, said he was “really impressed” by Caoimhe Butterly‘s reporting on the harrowing journey of refugees on their way to Europe, including her story Precarity and Resilience in Calais.

Caoimhe's story on Calais impressed me the most as she is telling a story that is not getting told.

7. Hong Kong Investigative Journalism Start-Up ‘Factwire’ Crowdfunds HK $3 Million

A post by our partner Hong Kong Free Press resonated with author Arpan Rachman in Indonesia. Hong Kong Investigative Journalism Start-Up ‘Factwire’ Crowdfunds HK $3 Million reported on the efforts of nascent Hong Kong news outlet Factwire to fund itself with the help of the crowd.

“This is new landscape for whole of media in Asia,” Arpan said:

In fact, many countries out there are still in the darkness era with unkind governments for investigative reporting. Hong Kong with Factwire can be a role model to lead others, moving faster to open up transparency and accountability for all of Asia's citizens.

8. How One Woman Fought One of the World’s Biggest Oil Companies—and Won

A post by Global Voices partner Public Radio International touched contributor Abdoulaye Bah in Rome, Italy. How One Woman Fought One of the World’s Biggest Oil Companies—and Won introduced us to Margie Richard and her years-long mission documenting the health problems of people in her Louisiana neighborhood after the arrival of a Shell chemical plant. Her determination took her all the way to the United Nations, and Shell eventually offered to buy out the homes of people who lived near the plant.

“History has shown how difficult it is to win a case against industries which are responsible for ecological disasters, especially oil companies,” Abdoulaye commented:

In many parts of the world, Shell, in particular, has violated the rights of local populations to accumulate the most money possible.

I felt a deep satisfaction to see a 71-year-old woman fighting successfully to make this giant accept the responsibilities for the disaster it has caused to so many innocents.

9. The Violent Life and Afterlife of Venezuela’s Slums

Latin America editor Mary Aviles in the San Francisco Bay Area highlighted The Violent Life and Afterlife of Venezuela’s Slums by Yessika Gonzalez. The story offers a glimpse of criminals’ funerals in Venezuela, painting a nuanced portrait of the socio-economic and cultural forces at play.

After reading this story you will understand why people, like late Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar, are still remembered and “admired” by some.

View of General South Cemetery (Cementerio General del Sur) in Caracas, Venezuela. Image from the Facebook group “Comunidad de usuarios y amigos del Cementerio General del sur.”

View of General South Cemetery (Cementerio General del Sur) in Caracas, Venezuela. Image from the Facebook group “Comunidad de usuarios y amigos del Cementerio General del sur.”

10 and 11. Dispatches From Syria: Marcell Shehwaro on Life in Aleppo

Greek editor Veroniki Krikoni in Athens, Greece, Lingua Russian editor Anna Schetnikova in Russia, and executive director Ivan Sigal in the US chose pieces written by Marcell Shehwaro as part of her award-winning series “Dispatches From Syria.”

Veroniki said A Year Away From Syria, in which Marcell described the crippling depression that accompanied leaving her home in Syria, was a poignant reading experience:

It was a year long since last story of Marcell from Aleppo was published. We were translating older posts of hers, which showed a courageous brilliant person full of will at first and wrath subsequently. I read this article shortly after her winning the first prize with her series. I felt bad, because I saw before me the transformation of this young woman to something else, all because of the war at her homeland.

Ivan said A Year Away From Syria also stood out to him “because of the clarity of Marcell's ideas, her passion, and her willingness to look closely at how she represents herself both publicly and to herself. This kind of humility is all too rare, and vital both to understanding the Syrian conflict and activism more generally.”

While Anna selected My Birthday, in which Marcell recalled her birthdays throughout the years of revolution and war:

For me, all of Marcell Shehwaro's posts are dreadful and saddening yet beautiful and inspiring, but this one stands out. The chosen form of retrospective makes you to live through the described events along with the author, giving you haunting feelings of grief and hopelessness. The story impressed me incredibly.

12. Cova da Moura: “A violência policial é a face mais visível do racismo em Portugal” diz Flávio Almada

The story Cova da Moura: “A violência policial é a face mais visível do racismo em Portugal” diz Flávio Almada (Cova da Moura: “Police violence is the most visual face of racism in Portugal” says Flávio Almada) by Rádio AfroLis stuck with Portuguese editor Manuel Ribeiro.

In the Portuguese-language piece, Flávio Almada, who is a member of the community project Moinho da Juventude, gives insight into the arrest of five young people in the Lisbon neighborhood of Cova da Moura. Manuel explained:

I have selected this one because it shows how deep racism prevails within the Portuguese society though the society itself claims not being racist.

The placard reads, "I don't want to be afraid of the police." Protest against police violence in Lisbon. Photo by Fernanda Canofre/Global Voices

The placard reads, “I don't want to be afraid of the police.” Protest against police violence in Lisbon. Photo by Fernanda Canofre/Global Voices

13. New Research: Iran Is Using ‘Intelligent’ Censorship on Instagram

Iran editor Mahsa Alimardani said her favorite of the year was New Research: Iran Is Using ‘Intelligent’ Censorship on Instagram, a story she collaborated on with Frederic Jacobs with the help of Advox editor Ellery Roberts Biddle.

The piece detailed how Iranian authorities were experimenting with “intelligent” censorship on the photo-sharing site that left political pages accessible, but blocked the accounts of Justin Bieber and the Kardashians:

Hate to boast about my own work, but it made my year to have make a headline in AP that said “Iran's censors are struggling to keep Justin Bieber's abs off Instagram.” The most tabloid-tastic moment of my year, if not life!

14. GV Face: On Beirut and Paris, Why Some Tragedies Grab the World's Attention and Others Don't

Managing editor Sahar Habib Ghazi based in San Francisco admitted that she had a hard time choosing just one post, but said this particular episode of GV's hangout series “had a profound impact on me.” Following the Beirut and Paris attacks, Lebanese author Joey Ayoub, Francophone editor Lova Rakotomalala, and Latin America community manager Laura Vidal discussed race, the politics of death and the unequal reactions to tragedies around the world.

“Media attention inequities cut deep,” Sahar said. “We feel for all tragedies”:

Conversations like the one we had in this episode make me so proud of the wonderful community we are a part of, and hopeful for the news agenda that we set.

15. In Caracas I Found Tehran

Managing director Georgia Popplewell, who's based in Trinidad and Tobago and also edits The Bridge, GV's original writing section, said that “choosing ‘favorite’ anything goes against the grain of the way my mind works,” but one of the stories she most enjoyed both editing and reading in 2015 was Laura Vidal's In Caracas I Found Tehran:

Laura's delightful essay traces the pathways and processes by which we engage with—and develop a passion for—other cultures. In her case the culture is Persian, and one route was literature, followed by encounters, friendships and romance with actual Iranians in Caracas, Venezuela, of all places, thanks to the controversial rapprochement between the governments of Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Bikinis vs Chadors in Venezuela and Iran: "After acclimatizing to Venezuela, even some of the Iranian women would adopt the more revealing dress style of their Venezuelan peers." Shiraz street scene photo by Flickr user Gabriel White (CC BY-SA 2.0). Images remixed by Georgia Popplewell.

Bikinis vs Chadors in Venezuela and Iran: “After acclimatizing to Venezuela, even some of the Iranian women would adopt the more revealing dress style of their Venezuelan peers.” Shiraz street scene photo by Flickr user Gabriel White (CC BY-SA 2.0). Images remixed by Georgia Popplewell.

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