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Freedom of expression takes center stage at The Bobs 2016 ceremony

The winners of the 2016 Bobs - DW's award for online activism - have been honored in Bonn. The ceremony highlighted the accomplishments of each project and included a guest star.

Recipients of the Bobs Awards were honored on Tuesday evening at the Global Media Forum, Germany's premier media conference held annually in Bonn.

The Bobs honor online activism across the globe in the categories of Social Change, Citizen Journalism, Tech for Good, and Arts and Culture.

At the televised event, hosted by Deutsche Welle's Jaafar Abdul Karim, four projects out of over 2,300 submissions were honored with the international accolade.

The winners of the 2016 The Bobs jury awards are:

· Social Change: Stop Acid Attacks campaign from India

· Citizen Journalism: Documentary film "Razor's Edge" from Bangladesh

· Tech for Good: Gershad app from Iran

· Arts & Culture: Center for Political Beauty from Germany

'To change the world, you must change yourself'

The Indian project Stop Acid Attacks was chosen as the winner in the category of Social Change. The initiative supports women disfigured by acid attacks and who face, as a result, stigmatization and isolation.

The jury selected SAA for taking on a "very difficult battle in an environment of patriarchy where women are not given a status equal to that of men, and for managing to give back the rights that were stripped away from them in such a painful way."

The recipient, Alok Dixit, called the award a sign that he and his team's efforts to raise awareness were now turning into a gradual acceptance of these women.

He himself married an acid attack survivor, falling in love with her strength.

"Everyone says change, change the world, but I think you have to change yourself first."

Iranian app circumvents moral police

In the category of Tech for Good, the jury selected the Iranian app Gershad. The smartphone application relies on crowdsourcing to pinpoint police and plot their location on a map so that people can avoid them and go about their daily lives.

A representative of the app's designers said their goal was to use collective non-violence as an instrument to restore the basic right of expression to Iranians.

"Our optimistic hope is that one day our app will no longer be necessary and that maybe they can use it as a traffic reporting app," the winners said in a statement.

Installation art puts refugee in the spotlight

The German art project The Center for Political Beauty won in the Arts and Culture category for courageously testing new forms of protection that involve social media and art.

For their latest project they have placed 1,000 platforms on the trail that refugees and migrants are following into Europe. Each contains an aid kit and a solar panel to send a rescue signal.

Award brings responsibility

The Bengali documentary "Razor's Edge" won the category of Citizen Journalism. Bloggers in the South Asian country have been murdered for their activism. The documentary highlighted the culture of impunity which protects the murderers and further endangers freedom of the press in Bangladesh, which ranks 144 on the World Press Freedom Index.

The documentary maker, who no longer lives in Bangladesh, told DW that the awards ceremony was an emotional event.

"I feel more responsibility to shed light on this situation having received the award," he said.

DW Gewinner der Bobs aus Bangladesch

The violence against Bangladeshi bloggers has forced this year's recipient of the Bobs for Citizen Journalism to keep his identity secret

"I want to promote the movie in other countries," the filmmaker said, adding that he plans to travel Europe to raise awareness of what is happening in Bangladesh.

The South Asian country saw the murder of four bloggers at the hands of religious extremists within a five-week period this spring. The government's unwillingness to confront the murders has created a situation too dangerous for the "Razor's Edge" creator to return.

But, he said he expected to return someday. "One cannot live in this situation for good."

Bassem Yousseff makes surprise appearance

Another activist to visit the show was Egypt star Bassem Yousseff, who himself knows the high price when a government strips its citizens of their right to free speech. In 2014, he cancelled his popular satirical news program with the rise of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to the Egyptian presidency.

Yousseff, however, called on the audience - comprised largely of Westerners - to take an interest not only in the violations of human rights across the globe, but to question what Europe's role has been in supporting dictatorships.

Bonn Global Media Forum GMF The Bobs Jafaar Abdul Karim und Bassem Youssef

Egyptian satirist Bassem Yousseff (left)

"These Western governments are basically fine with these other governments because of oil or arms deals. That's not the Europe that we are used to," he told the audience to loud applause. "I hope you don't turn a blind eye to the reason why many of these dictatorships continue to exist and thrive."

When asked, on a less serious note, how Egypt was nowadays, he said: "Egypt is amazing. We're living the best days of our lives. You can't complain." And then, adding with a winning smile: "I mean - really - you can't complain."

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