Deutsche Welle celebrates courageous defenders of free speech

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In a prize ceremony at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany, on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, Deutsche Welle celebrated the winners of it annual prize competition “The Bobs ? Best of Online Activism.”
deutsche_welle_radioIn a global television broadcast and in front of a live audience of 2,000 international guests from the fields of diplomacy, journalism and other segments of public life, DW Director Peter Limbourg honored imprisoned Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi with the Freedom of Speech Award and encouraged participants of the Global Media Forum to demand “the release of online activists in custody around the world.”
“Our award sends a signal and contributes to bringing Badawi?s fate into the public spotlight,” said Limbourg at the prize ceremony in the World Conference Center in Bonn. “We hope this will increase pressure on those responsible in Saudi Arabia to release him.”

In May 2014, the 31-year-old blogger was sentenced by Saudi authorities to 1,000 lashes and 10 years of imprisonment on charges of insulting Islam. The first 50 lashes were administered in public on January 9, 2015. Badawi was meant to receive 50 lashes every Friday from then on, but the public floggings have been postponed on several occasions. A Saudi court recently upheld the sentence despite public protests from abroad.

Asylum instead of arms

In a ceremonial speech, Jochen Wegner, Editior-in-Chief of the online edition of German daily DIE ZEIT, called this award ceremony “among the most bitter, for Raif Badawi cannot be with us today.”
“This prize is perhaps the most important the Bobs have ever given out,” said Wegner. “Important for Raif Badawi and his family, who need every conceivable form of support that we can provide.”
As important as public support is for him, Badawi has “opened our eyes” and “illustrated the absurdities of life in Saudi Arabia more clearly than ever before ? and thus the absurdities of life in many other places in the world,” said Wegner.
He is also an important example to aspire to. “I very much hope that many journalists and activists try to live up to his example and do not cease dedicating themselves to defending the right to free speech.”
Wegner praised Canada for granting Badawi and his family asylum. “I wish that all European countries, where the right to asylum is currently a subject of intense debate, would compete with Canada to make such offers of asylum rather than competing among themselves for the privilege of exporting arms to our ally Saudi Arabia.”

“Do not forget Raif”

In a video message from her home in exile in Canada, Badawi?s wife, Ensaf Haidar, said that the award was clear proof that Raif and his just cause were not left in isolation. For family reasons, Haidar was prevented from traveling to Bonn to receive the award on behalf of her husband but she thanked DW Director General Limbourg, who “has defended Badawi from the beginning.” She appealed to the international community and politicians in particular to not forget Raif.
The conference delegates took her words to heart in the form of a resolution demanding “the immediate release of all online activists being held in custody around the world. The right to free speech and freedom of expression are human rights. Journalists and activists have the right to unlimited freedom and safety.”

At the award ceremony, Deutsche Welle also honored the three jury-selected winners of the 2015 Bobs Awards.

The prize in the category Social Change went to Mukto Mona from Bangladesh. Rafida Bonya Ahmed received the award.
The Mexican website Rancho Electr?nico (“electronic ranch”) won the award in the Privacy & Security category. Rub?n Omar Valencia P?rez accepted the prize on behalf of the platform?s creators.
“Zaytoun, the little refugee” won the jury-selected award in the Arts and Media category. Mar?a Carri?n received the award.

International partners and co-hosts

DW’s partners for the approximately 40 workshops and events being held at the 2015 Global Media Forum include, among others, Amnesty International, Grimme-Institut, the United Nations, the OSCE, Reporters Without Borders Germany and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The conference is co-hosted by the Foundation for International Dialogue of the Sparkasse Savings Bank in Bonn. Support is also kindly provided by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the City of Bonn and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Winners of the 2015 Bobs Awards spotlight social injustices around the world

In the 11th edition of the Deutsche Welle’s annual competition honoring online activism, the jury presented the main winners of the 2015 Bobs Awards.

Social Change: Mukto Mona, Bangladesh

The top honor in the category Social Change goes to Mukto Mona from Bangladesh, with which blogger Rafida Bonya Ahmed continues the work of her husband, Avijit Roy, who was brutally murdered earlier this year. Roy, a well-known online writer, died of wounds he suffered during an attack by unknown assailants in Dhaka in February 2015. From a critical, journalistic stance, the blog reports on secular and scientific issues. It sparked the ire of religious fundamentalists in the country to the point where they published a kill-list of 84 bloggers and journalists, eight of whom have already been murdered. The award for this blog draws attention to “the men and women who continue to work despite the danger they are in,” according to the prize jury. The Social Change category is designed to honor a project that uses digital technologies to effectively promote social issues and create a positive impact on the world.

Privacy and Security: Rancho Electr?nico, Mexico

The Mexican website Rancho Electr?nico (“electronic ranch”) won this year in the Privacy & Security category. The platform’s creators produce detailed reports on data security, encryption and surveillance in Mexico. They also host workshops and other events to connect with people and create a community concerned about privacy. The platform aims to reach out to people so they can overcome the digital divide, according to the jury. This category honors software or online services, informative websites and other projects that help people protect their data, personal information and privacy.

Arts and Media: Zaytoun, Syria

“Zaytoun, the little refugee” won the jury award in the Arts and Media category. This video game draws attention to the fate of Syrian and Palestinian refugees. The project puts people in the shoes of Zaytoun, a Palestinian boy caught in the middle of the Syrian civil war.
Zaytoun’s story of struggling to survive in the Yarmouk refugee camp as it is being destroyed represents the many refugees from the Palestinian Territories who are fighting for their lives in Syrian refugee camps. “Syria is one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of the century and that goes double or triple for Palestinian refugees. Zaytoun makes this connection visible,” the jury commented. The Arts & Media category honors projects that do an exceptional job of using digital communications to convey their own interpretation of social issues.

In addition to the jury-selected awards, Internet users visited thebobs.com to vote for the winners of the People’s Choice Awards in each of The Bobs Awards 14 languages. In all, some 30,000 votes were cast. Take Back the Tech won the public’s recognition in the category People’s Choice English. The project is a series of campaigns promoting the use of technology, especially by women and girls, in advocacy against gender-based violence.

As part of the 2015 Bobs Awards, Deutsche Welle also conferred its first Freedom of Speech Award to Raif Badawi. The 31-year-old Saudi Arabian blogger was sentenced in May 2014to 1,000 lashes, ten years in jail and a heavy fine for insulting Islam. DW Director General Peter Limbourg said Badawi made an extraordinary contribution to human rights in general and freedom of expression in particular.

This was the 11th edition of the German international broadcaster’s annual competition “The Bobs ? Best of Online Activism.” From the more than 4,800 websites and online projects submitted to this year’s contest, the 14-member international jury nominated 112 candidates as finalists.

Deutsche Welle created The Bobs in 2004 to stimulate and enrich public discussion of freedom of expression using online media. Sites and projects submitted to the competition represent the multifaceted world of possibilities and opportunities that can be harnessed to promote freedom of expression and shed light on injustices around the world.

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