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DW-WORLD Wants the World's Best Blogs

As Deutsche Welle's 2005 Best of the Blogs starts its second year, jury member Ammar Abdalhamid talked about facing government pressure in Syria and the role of blogs in countries with limited freedom of the press.

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The Best of the Blogs honors sites commited to freedom of the press

About 37,500 new Weblog start every hour, according to Weblog search engine Technorati, but even after blogs have established themselves in the media, there's still plenty of disagreement about their importance.

Some observers see the private online publications as the direction of journalism's future. But others see blogs as little more than online diaries that are an extension of backroom rumor and gossip, where everyone gets to say whatever they want without any checking on the details.

There's no doubt in Syrian blogger Ammar Abdalhamid's mind that Weblogs have established themselves as weapons against totalitarian regimes and in countries that do not enjoy a robust and free press.

"This is the way we are able to communicate and give our opinions about any topics without it passing through government censors," he said of Weblogs. "Without turning back the clock to earlier times, there's no way for governments to control the Internet's virtual arena.

There will always be pressure

A writer and blogger, Abdalhamid lives in Damascus, where the local government keeps a close eye on him and what he publishes in his blog. He also leads the Tharwa Project, an independent initiative that tries to increase civic awareness in the Middle East and North Africa, and has long been a thorn in the side of the Syrian government.

"I've made a lot of trouble for myself, but there's no getting around it," he said. "There will always be pressure from above, and our role in the game is to keep going regardless of what the government bans or censors."

Podcasts, French and Persian part of theBOBs 2005

Ammar Abdulhamid is one of 12 members of Deutsche Welle's 2005 Weblog Awards, where he'll feel right at home with Julien Pain from Reporters Without Borders and Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan (photo), one of the most influential Persian-language bloggers and known to the Weblog community as "Hoder." Blogger and journalist Lisa Stone, who organized the BlogHER convention, will represent the English-speaking blogosphere.

Prizes for the Best Weblog, Best Multimedia Blog and Best Journalistic Blog will be conferred in all nine of the contest's languages as well as in new categories for Best Podcasting Site and the Special Award from Reporters Without Borders.

Reporters Without Borders are joined by Le Monde (France), CBC.ca (Canada), Handelsblatt newspaper (Germany), Clarín (Argentina), Folha Online (Brazil) as well as Shargh newspaper (Iran), Lenta.ru (Russia), Iran-Emrooz.net and Phoenix TV (China) in supporting the Deutsche Welle's 2005 Weblog awards.

TheBOBs' first round last year met with a great response in both the media and the Weblog community, with nearly 100,000 votes being cast in an online voting process. Last year the Chinese blog "The Dog Newspaper" took top honors in the Best Weblog Jury Prize.

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