Iranian Arash Sigarchi's "Window of Anguish" is honored with the top award at the BOBs. The Best Social Activism Campaign focuses on Syrian bloggers' freedom, and "Fakosan" wins in the Education and Culture category.
The blog "Window of Anguish" by Iranian blogger and journalist Arash Sigarchi won the Deutsche Welle International Blog Awards, known as the BOBs. An international jury awarded prizes in six categories. Winners will be invited to receive their prizes at a ceremony during the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum on June 26 in Bonn, Germany.
At sigarchi.net/blog, Arash Sigarchi writes about human rights topics and a range of social and political issues in Iran. "The prize is very important in the Persian blogosphere, which is closely watched and censored by the authorities. Arash Sigarchi is a blogger who left Iran but continues to report tirelessly on what’s happening in his homeland and build bridges to people in Iran," the jury said of its decision.
Sigarchi's blog is widely read inside and outside Iran, and the author remains well-connected with sources and conditions in the country. He has lived in Washington, D.C. since 2008. In 2004 he was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his writing. With the help of Nobel Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi, he saw his sentence reduced to three years but was permitted to leave prison to receive medical treatment for tongue cancer.
"The BOBs builds bridges among people, cultures and countries," said DW Director General Erik Bettermann. "The prize honors people who take a strong stance on freedom of expression and human rights and thereby support the spread of civil society and democracy around the world."
The DW recognized people's work in social media in the Best Social Activism Campaign category. The Jury Award for this category went to the Facebook page Free Syrian Blogger & Activist Razan Ghazzawi. The page was started to call attention to the detention of Syrian blogger Razan Ghazzawi, who was traveling to Amman on December 4, 2011. After Ghazzawi was released in February 2012, the site continued its work and dedicated itself to other imprisoned Syrian bloggers.
"By giving the award to this site, we are calling attention to the numerous initiatives in the Arab world that support bloggers and activists, including Alaa Abdel-Fattah, an Egyptian BOBs prize winner from 2005, and Bahrain's Ali Abdulemam," the jury said.
In the Special Topic Culture and Education category, the jury gave its blessing to the blog "Fasokan." The 36-year-old Boukary Konate has been writing at fasokan.com since 2008 and documents his efforts in French and the local language Bambara to close the digital divide in rural regions of Mali. The jury said his blog represents "a bridge between the rural culture in villages and the Internet." Konate, who was born in a village in Mali and later became a teacher, uses a portable battery and solar power cell to show people how they can improve their lives by using access to the web.
The Egyptian mapping project Harassmap won the Best Use of Technology for Social Good category. The website provides an anonymous way for women and girls to report sexual harassment, then categorizes and localizes the incidents on a map. The site also supports girls and women by giving them a place to speak out about sexual harassment. "To the project’s credit, it addresses a taboo topic that affects many, many women in Egypt, and raises the public's awareness of the issue."
The Best Video Channel award went to Kuang Kuang Kuang. Wang Bo and a team of other Chinese artists use their character Kuang Kuang in comics and animations to criticize the government’s policies and comment on social problems. The group is able to use satire and a large dose of creativity to get around the Chinese censors, the jury said.
The Reporter without Borders Prize was awarded to the Bengali journalist Abu Sufian for his blog of the same name. He uses the blog to draw attention to political grievances, including authorities' arbitrary measures. The jury said Sufian risks his life by "reporting on topics that traditional media fail to cover."
In addition to the Jury Awards, Internet users cast more than 65,000 votes for the blogs and projects that most impressed them. The Best Blog / English winner went to The Chronikler. All of the User Prize winners can be found at www.thebobs.com.
Internationally established awards
The Jury Award winners will receive their prizes at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum on June 26, 2012, in Bonn, Germany.
Internet users from around the world submitted over 3,200 sites in 11 languages and six categories. The many submissions attest to the trend of people using social media and online networks to create social change. The jury created a short-list of 187 candidates.
This year’s 12-member jury panel included Chinese blogger Isaac Mao, one of the organizers of the Chinese Blogger Conference that has been held in China since 2005.
Premium partners for the contest are Reporters Without Borders and the re:publica conference. Media partners are: Global Voices Online, Jetzt.de, Arabic Media Network, Somewhere in…, Bdnews.com, iSun TV, Categorynet, TV5 Monde, Gooya, sailingsilang,com, Berita Satu, La Información, La Nación, Terra and Lenta.ru.