FJA 2020 Shortlist 

Category: Contribution to Civil Rights

Kevin Douglas Grant, Leticia Duarte, Soumya Shankar, Juan Arredondo, Quentin Aries, Tracy Jarrett

(United States)

Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian's Playbook

The GroundTruth Project

October 17, 2019

The original publication is available via the following link:


Seven steps by populists worldwide to undermine the democracies that elected them

By Kevin Douglas Grant

WASHINGTON – The hallmarks of populist nationalism are gaining ground in many of the world’s largest democracies from Modi’s India to Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Trump’s America. In
these, and many other countries, elected leaders are flirting with aspects of authoritarianism in an extreme era of digital disruption, mass migration and the mounting effects of climate change.

In this project, Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook.

It is a playbook that our reporting team has pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. The reporting is not intended to suggest that each of these countries is now under an authoritarian regime, but that their leaders are showing
instincts and inclinations that lead to a brand of populist nationalism that, if history is a guide, can lead to authoritarian government. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.


Read more


Meet the intellectual founder of Brazil’s far right

By Leticia Duarte

PETERSBURG, Virginia — Talking with Olavo de Carvalho can be an exercise in self-restraint. As I walked into his house for an interview recently, he was sitting behind his desk, his gray hair neatly combed back. More than 100 smoking pipes were lined up on a rack, and thousands of books were stacked on the shelves of his home office alongside at least 20 rifles. 


Read more

The slow death of Colombia’s peace movement

By Juan Arredondo

As a photojournalist, Arredondo has documented the hopes of the peace process between Colombia’s government and the FARC rebels – and the repercussions of its setbacks. We’ve included his photography from his time as a freelancer up to being a GroundTruth reporting fellow, offering a glimpse at the on-the-ground impact of the peace process from 2015 to present.

EL CARMEN DE BOLÍVAR, Colombia—The sun hadn’t yet risen when Yirley Velasco heard her daughter scream. The girl had woken to use the restroom, but a noise at the entrance to the family’s one-storey home pulled her instead to the front door. Wedged underneath it was a white envelope tied with a black ribbon.


Read more


Europe’s failure to protect liberty in Viktor Orbán’s

By Quentin Aries

BUDAPEST — For Attila Babos and Ervin Gűth, simply doing their job has been getting harder and harder. Their news website, Szabad Pécs, has won plaudits for its coverage of local news in southwest Hungary, from stories about a (consensual) relationship between a priest and a male high-school student to a municipality running out of money to pay its bills.


Read more


Not everyone has a vote in the world’s largest democracy

By Soumya Shankar

Editor’s note: Originally published in Foreign Policy, this dispatch by Democracy Undone Fellow Soumya Shankar explores another aspect of “Exploit Religion,” a tactic from The Authoritarian’s Playbook.

MUMBAI—Maroof Azam, a 24-year-old mechanic, dropped his tools to accost a man who was passing by his store. The person in question was a volunteer for a smartphone app that tracked missing voters. “Did you receive my voter card yet?” Azam asked, his hands blackened with soot from the bike he was repairing. “No, you are rejected,” the volunteer said. Azam’s face turned ashen as he responded: “I am Indian—at least I should be allowed to vote.”


Read more

How Trump sells his war on truth

By Tracy Jarret

DALLAS — A sea of red flooded the streets around a downtown arena. American flags waved
high among a crowd wearing red t-shirts and hats. People — young and old, men and women,
families and old friends — flowed toward the big show like a surging tide.


Read more