Deutsche Welle honored the winners of its international competition "The Bobs - Best of Online Activism" at the Global Media Forum in Bonn. The "Best Blog Award" went to the Chinese social critic, Li Chengpeng.
"Authors in China have a really difficult time speaking the plain truth" the 44-year old winner told Deutsche Welle. Li Chengpeng is an extremely well-known blogger, author and social critic in China. He is especially popular with the young generation in the country, where he has over seven million followers on the micro-blogging platform SinaWeibo. His blog Lichengpeng (www.blog.sina.com.cn/lichengpeng) has received over 300 million visits. Li Chengpeng has said that "the melted water from the iceberg flows into the sea, without worrying about the many obstacles along the way. There is enormous strength in civil society. I would recommend that the government cooperates with civil society groups, instead of smearing us with baseless accusations."
A role model for the younger generation
"He not only writes, he also acts: He conducts investigative research. For example, in 2008 he travelled to an earthquake zone in Sichuan province to report on shoddy building materials in collapsed schools. He is a role model for the younger generation and demonstrates how the Chinese can create a better future for their country," explained jury member Hu Yong.
Li Chengpeng tells the Chinese youth that they need to be more aware of censorship and encourages them to participate openly and actively in the political process. After publishing his most recent book, "The Whole World Knows," he went on tour but was forbidden by authorities to speak with his fans. To show their solidarity, visitors to the tour wore masks over their faces similar to the one he wore for the "silent readings."
"Every small initiative is important"
In the Best Social Activism category, Deutsche Welle's jury members honored the work done to promote democracy and human rights in social media. The Moroccan youth initiative 475 (www.facebook.com/475LeFilm) took the jury's award. It deals with the fate of women who, according to Moroccan law 475, are forcibly married to men who raped them so the rapists do not face criminal charges. The story of Amina, who committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 16, got the project started in a social media campaign on Facebook and Flickr. "The project shows that every initiative is important when it comes to stopping rape and all forms of violence against women," the jury said.
The jury awarded the Chinese site FreeWeibo(www.freeweibo.com) in the Best Innovation category. The service offers censorship-free access to the micro-blogging platform SinaWeibo.com, one of China's most popular social networks. "In China, censorship is completely normal and a daily occurrence," the jury said. "Messages can be deleted without the people who wrote them ever knowing about it. FreeWeibo gives users a way to see the deleted posts and find out what is being censored."
In the Most Creative & Original category, the jury gave its award to Me & My Shadow (www.myshadow.org). Written in English, the project shows people "in an entertaining and visually stimulating way what kinds of personal information they are revealing when they are online and gives simple tips on ways they can change their behavior to protect their privacy," the jury said. Tactical Technology, an international association that shares information on digital issues with human rights groups around the world, produced the project.
This year's Global Media Forum Award went to the project Infoladies (www.pallitathya.org.bd) from Bangladesh. Finalists in the category addressed issues tied to the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum 2013, which looks at "The Future of Growth - Economic Values and the Media." The Infoladies project equips women with digital cameras, mobile phones and solar-powered laptops to travel by bike to rural areas and answer questions related to health, agriculture and development. "Infoladies brings life-saving information about health, education and a number of other services to the poorest people in Bangladesh," the jury said.
The Reporters Without Borders Award went to Fabbikouassi's Blog (www.fabbikouassi.wordpress.com) from Togo. DW awarded the prize in cooperation with the human rights organization Reporters Without Borders. The journalist and human rights activist Fabbi Kouassi reports in her blog about the dangerous situation facing journalists in her country and about the daily police violence that targets journalists. The blog symbolizes "the work being done for freedom of expression in an African country that often gets overlooked," the jury said, adding, "we talk about problems in China and Iran, but can forget Africa, where fear of police brutality and suppression are a part of daily life."
In addition to the jury awards, Internet users from around the world cast around 95,000 votes in an online poll for their favorite finalists in The Bobs. The Best Blog / English award went to Mideast Youth (www.mideastyouth.com), a collection of websites and applications that all amplify voices of dissent in the Middle East. All of the User Winners can be found at www.thebobs.com.
A competition in 14 languages
Deutsche Welle launched The Bobs – Best of Online Activism in 2004 with the goal of promoting an open exchange of ideas and freedom of expression online in digital media. More than 4,200 websites and online projects from around the world were submitted to this year's contest. The competition was conducted in 14 languages, which included Hindi, Turkish and Ukrainian all for the first time this year. The "Best Person to Follow" was added to the contest as a new category for microblogging. Submissions to The Bobs reflected the wide spectrum of ways blogs and social media can be used to promote freedom of expression and to push for transparency and accountability.
The 15-member jury narrowed down the submissions to 364 finalists. Among the jurors in 2013 were Hu Yong of the People's Republic of China, and Arash Abadpour, who writes one of the world's most-read Farsi blogs.
This year's premium partners are Reporters Without Borders and the re:publica conference. Media partners are Masrawy, Somewhere in…, Bdnews.com, iSun TV, Global Voices Online, Categorynet.com, Courrier International, Presseeurop, Gooya, Terra, Jetzt.de, Lenta.ru, Korrespondent, ntvmsnbc, MYNET, MEDYATAVA and webdunia.