When 15 online media experts and activists came together for a two-day conference in Berlin to name the winners of Deutsche Welle's award, The Bobs - Best of Online Activism, the debate in the room was as active as the discussion online under #thebobs14, where links and impressions of nominees were exchanged.
A series of close votes demonstrated how the jury members, representing the contest's 14 languages, wrestled with the difficult decision of choosing just one of winner in each of the contest's six multilingual categories.
In addition to the six awards handed out by jury members, the public also voted online for the winners of the People's Choice Awards, which can all be seen on The Bobs website.
Below are the people and projects that won The Bobs 2014 Jury Awards.
The photo blog by Egyptian Mosa'ab Elshamy (above) won the top prize at The Bobs. His impressive photos and photo essays on current events in Cairo won over jurors, as did his work to present a view of modern cultural life in Egypt. He recently accompanied young Mahraganat musicians through the underground clubs of the Egyptian capital. During the Egyptian revolution, his work also appeared on the cover of "Time" and among the magazine's list of top 10 pictures of the year. "Mosa'ab Elshamy illustrates in a very impressive way the rifts that exist in Egyptian society," the jury said of his work. "Although we do not all speak Arabic, we can all understand the power of his images," added jury member Tarek Amr.
Best Social Activism
The website Visualizing Palestine won The Bobs award for Best Social Activism.
The team behind the site creates and presents fact-based infographics illustrating the circumstances Palestinians and Palestinian refugees face on a daily basis. While many of the graphics address issues dealing with relations to Israel, Visualizing Palestine also confronts environmental issues, social topics and education. "The issue of the Palestinians is an extremely emotional and polarizing one," said jury member Georgia Popplewell, the managing director of Global Voices Online. "Visualizing Palestine brings facts to that discussion without sacrificing emotion."
Most Creative & Original
The winner of The Bobs award in the Most Creative and Original category takes micro-blogging to the extreme. As millions of ultra-short, 140-character or less messages careen around the internet, the artist behind weicombo gets his point across using just one Chinese character.
While he does not provide his name for safety reasons, weicombo's creator comments on current events by slightly altering the character to lend his posts a touch of irony and satire. His posts present readers with a daily guessing game of inferring the point he is looking to get across. Word games and puzzles have a long tradition in China, according to The Bobs jury member Tienchi Martin-Liao. "Weicombo has found a very creative and clever way to get around censorship in China," she said. "His posts are not only political but also entertaining and his readers love him for that."
Global Media Forum Award
The weekly local language newspaper has been written, published and delivered by a community of women across rural parts of India for the past 12 years. It connects with thousands of people in parts of the country's north and northeast that seldom get the attention of national media. "The newspaper is a shining example that a functioning democracy is dependent on access to information for all people," said jury member and blogger Rohini Lakshane.
The BanglaBraille project enables the production of school textbooks to be printed in braille for visually impaired students in Bangladesh.
The project's organizers also create audio versions of the textbooks that students download and listen to. There are currently more than 50,000 visually impaired students in Bangladesh without access to educational materials. The BanglaBraille team assembled a network of volunteers who digitize the books and conduct fundraising for the project. "BanglaBraille has fundamentally improved the lives of many students in Bangladesh and is fighting against a problem that authorities in our country have criminally neglected," said jury member Shahidul Alam of Bangladesh.
Reporters Without Borders Award
The Bobs special award, presented in conjunction with the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, went to the Ukrainian project YanukovychLeaks.
The site presents the work of a group of Ukrainian and other journalists who worked to salvage and report on records which former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his supporters threw into a pool at a huge presidential estate while fleeing the country after the Maidan revolution. YanukovychLeaks aims to digitize and catalogue the records and make them available to the public. "It is especially important during times of crisis to support independent journalists," said Christian Mihr, head of Reporters Without Borders' German branch and a member of The Bobs jury. The project was also praised by jury member Renata Avila of Guatemala for providing access to the complete documents. "You can use the files to support different opinions," she said. "But citizens can see all the information for themselves and decide for themselves how important it is, and what it means."
Celebrating it's10th anniversary, The Bobs - Best of Online Activism was started by Deutsche Welle in 2004 to promote freedom of expression online and to contribute to a public discussion of censorship. "I think The Bobs have shown over the last 10 years that these kinds of awards can have a real impact," Mihr told DW. "The award has helped many of the past winners continue their work under repressive regimes, get around censorship, and even protected them from attacks for daring to tell the truth in an open and independent way."