Bangladeshi bloggers, Syrian refugee, Mexican activists honored at The Bobs | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 03.05.2015
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Bangladeshi bloggers, Syrian refugee, Mexican activists honored at The Bobs

A Syrian refugee boy running for his life, Mexican hippie-hackers protecting privacy and Bangladeshi bloggers risking their lives to fight religious fundamentalism. Those were the winners of DW’s annual The Bobs awards.

Jury members announced the winners of the 11th annual competition at The Bobs - Best of Online Activism on Saturday. The winners of the three main awards came from Bangladesh, Syria and Mexico.

In the Social Change category the jury honored the work of Rafida Bonya Ahmed, who was brutally assaulted in a February 2015 attack that claimed the life of her husband, Avijit Roy. Despite the serious injuries she suffered, Ahmed has refused to be silenced by the religious fundamentalists behind her husband's murder.

"We have a situation of intolerance that is very problematic," said Shahidul Alam, a member of the Bobs jury, explaining that bloggers like Ahmed were fighting against extremists dragging Bangladesh away from its secular principles.

'The onus is now on the rest of us'

Ahmed and other bloggers at mukto-mona.comoften end up putting their own lives at risk. Religious fundamentalists published a list of 84 people they have said should be killed, eight of whom have already been murdered.

"In a repressive environment where freedom of expression can lead to death, the defiance of these bloggers must be lauded," Alam added. "But the onus now is on the rest of us to ensure that these brave individuals are given the support and protection that they need and that governments are held to account."

A boy running for his life

The jury's honors in the Arts and Media category went to "Zaytoun, the little refugee." The project puts people in the shoes of Zaytoun, a Syrian-Palestinian refugee caught in the middle of the Syrian civil war.

"This project could not be any more timely," said Leila Nachawati of The Bobs jury. Recent fighting in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus has added to the suffering of the people living there.

Created by a team of independent media makers, Zaytoun provides an up-close view of life in Syria that is often overshadowed by reporting on the war and statements from international organizations.

"We hear about Syria, but we don’t hear from Syrian-Palestinian voices," Nachawati said. "Zaytoun gives the rest of the world a chance to hear real voices from the ground."

Self-funded hippie hackers

Jury members gave their final award in the Privacy and Security category to Rancho Electronico, a Mexican volunteer group that helps people understand the ins-and-outs of digital technology and how to protect their privacy.

"We often fall in love with tools and apps, we get fascinated by websites - and then they vanish," said Renata Avila of The Bobs jury. "This is not just a website or app, but a real community, online and off, that deals with protecting privacy and security."

Volunteers at Rancho Electronico have created a hacker-space in Mexico City along with social media to engage with women and marginalized populations on the steps they can take to overcome the digital divide.

"It's a holistic approach to privacy and security," Avila said. "The award is a form of recognition for a volunteer-based community doing work to bring together people from all social backgrounds on an issue that affects everyone."

People's Choice Awards

In addition to the three awards given out by the jury, Internet users around the world also voted for the People's Choice Award in all 14 of the Bobs' languages. It was won by Take Back the Tech, a series of campaigns promoting the use of technology, especially by women and girls, in advocacy against gender-based violence.

DW Freedom of Speech Award

As part of the Bobs 2015, Deutsche Welle also gave out its first Freedom of Speech Award in February to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. His website, Free Saudi Liberals, addressed a number of controversial political and social issues facing Saudi Arabia.

In May 2014, the 31-year-old was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a heavy fine for insulting Islam. DW Director General Peter Limbourg said Badawi took an exemplary stance for freedom of expression.

The three jury award winners as well as the winner of the Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award will be invited to an award ceremony on June 23 as part of the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany.

All the winners of the Bobs 2015 can be found at www.thebobs.com.

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