Deutsche Welle presented prizes to the winners of its international Blog Awards, The BOBs, on June 26 during the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum. The top award went to Iranian journalist and blogger Arash Sigarchi.
"When it comes to freedom, I believe the situation has worsened since I left Iran in 2008," said Sigarchi. In "Window of Anguish" (http://sigarchi.net/blog), he reports in Persian and English about social and political topics in his homeland, especially about the state of human rights.
"I gave the blog this name because every day, when I opened a new window in my browser, I came upon alarming news stories," said Sigarchi. He lives in exile in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. The journalist was sentenced in Iran in 2004 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.
"This award-winning blog is very important in the Persian blogosphere, which is closely watched and censored by the authorities," the jury said of its decision. "Arash Sigarchi is a blogger who left Iran but continues to report tirelessly on what's happening in his homeland."
An international jury awarded prizes in six categories altogether.
In the Special Topic Culture and Education category, the jury honored the blog "Fasokan." 36-year-old Boukary Konaté has been writing at http://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." Konaté, who was born in a village in Mali and later became a teacher, shows people how they can connect to the Internetusing a portable solar power cell and car battery, and what they can use it for.
The award winner said that connecting people with one another is important to him. "In this way, the rural areas can not only share their traditions and cultures with the rest of the world but also profit from the experiences of others in order to develop in a lasting way."
The Best Social Activism Campaign distinction went to Syrian blogger and activist Sherry Al-Hayek for the Facebook page "Free Syrian Blogger & Activist Razan Ghazzawi" (www.facebook.com/freerazan). This site is dedicated to all imprisoned Syrian activists. "By giving the award to this campaign, we are calling attention to the numerous initiatives in the Arab world that support bloggers and activists," said the jury.
Rebecca Chiao from Egypt won the prize in the Best Use of Technology for Social Good category for her "Harassmap" (http://Harassmap.org). The website provides an anonymous way for women and girls to report sexual harassment, then categorizes and localizes the incidents on a map. "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 jury said, explaining its decision.
The Best Video Channel award went to "Kuang Kuang Kuang" (http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/pbnY8O-BqaM/?fr=rec1&FR=LIAN) by Wang Bo (under the pseudonym Pi San). His team uses comics and animations to criticize the government's policies and comment on social problems. The group is able to use satire and great creativity to get around the Chinese censors, said the jury.
The Reporter without Borders Prize was awarded to the Bengali journalist Abu Sufian. He uses the blog http://blog.bdnews24.com/author/abusufianir to draw attention to social and political grievances, including authorities' arbitrary measures. The jury said Sufian risks his life by "reporting on controversial topics that traditional media fail to cover."
The BOBs represent Deutsche Welle's efforts to promote open discourse and mutual understanding on the Internet. Since 2004, the BOBs have been awarded to people who promote freedom of opinion and human rights on the Internet in a special way.
Premium partners of 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.