China has once again reaped criticism for its restrictive approach to freedom of expression. The regime blocked an Internet site nominated for Deutsche Welle's Weblog awards.
The 12-member jury of Deutsche Welle's 2005 Weblog Awards (BOBs) on Monday condemned the blocking of "Wang Yi's Microphone" and called on the Chinese authorities to stop censoring Weblogs and the Internet.
The BOBs jury members' protest comes just days before the World Summit on the Information Society begins on Nov. 16 in Tunis. Failure to declare their protest in light of the summit would be tantamount to tolerating censorship, they said. A Chinese delegation is expected to take part in the event.
"Bloggers like Wang Yi, who are courageous enough to publicly protest against government bans, deserve the support of the international community," said Guido Baumhauer, editor-in-chief of DW-WORLD.DE, Deutsche Welle's online presence.
Wang Yi's Weblog was among the final three candidates for the Special Award from the Paris-based human rights organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The other top nominees were Tunisian judge Mokhtar Yahyaoui's blog and Egyptian Weblog "Manal and Alaa's Bit Bucket," which won the prize.
Deutsche Welle announced the nominees for its annual BOBs -- the Best of the Blogs Awards on Oct. 24. Shortly thereafter, access to "Wang Yi's Microphone," which was nominated in two categories, was blocked by the Chinese authorities in the Hainan province.
China restricts free expression
A lawyer by profession, Wang Yi often used his Weblog to criticize the government. His efforts to promote freedom of expression and an independent judiciary system in China were among the reasons he was nominated in the Best of the Blogs awards, according to the jury.
"This action really shows that the Chinese government has no respect for freedom of expression," said Julien Pain, a member of the BOBs jury and head of the Reports Without Borders Internet Freedom Desk. "The Chinese government started censoring the Internet a long time ago, it is not the first time that a blog has been shut down, but it shows again that each time a new form of circulating information is created, the Chinese authorities manage to control it and shut it down -- and that's scary."
Chinese jury member Zhao Jing, better known as Michael Anti, said he the Chinese authorities' decision was a grave mistake. "Blogs play an important role in freedom of speech, and the fact that the Chinese government is censoring them proves how far China is from accepting free speech," he said.
Promoting human irghts
Manal and Alaa Abd El Fattah won the Reporters Without Borders Award
"Manal and Alaa's Bit Bucket," which won the Special Award from Reporters Without Borders, is powered by a married couple who have become an institution among Arabic bloggers and journalists critical of the Egyptian regime. Manal and Alaa strive to promote freedom of expression and protect human rights as well as highlight the need for political reforms in Egypt. Their Weblog also offers other bloggers free storage space and practical help starting their own initiatives. It has been has been crucial is developing a critical and engaged blogger scene in Egypt and the Arabic-speaking world, according to the BOBs jury.
The winners in the other 12 categories will be announced on Nov. 21. The 13 awards honor blogs in nine languages.
The jury is made up of Ammar Abdulhamid (Syria), Michael Anti (China), Yegor Bykovsky (Russia), Hossein 'Hoder' Derakhshan (Iran), Ignacio Escolar (Spain), Jörg Kantel (Germany), Konstantin Klein (Germany), Loïc le Meur (France), André Lemos (Brazil), Jose Luis Orihuela (Spain), Julien Pain (France, Reporters Without Borders) and Lisa Stone (USA).
The following media and cooperation partners have been involved in the BOBs: Reporters Without Borders, CBC.ca (Canada), Handelsblatt.com (Germany), LeMonde.fr (France), Clarín.com (Argentina), Folha Online (Brazil), Shargh Newspaper (Iran), Lenta.ru (Russia), Iran-Emrooz.net (Iran), and Phoenix TV (China). The 2005 Deutsche Welle International Weblog Awards are supported by the Maritim Hotel Bonn.