Tunisian blog Nawaat awarded 2011 Netizen Prize
On the eve of the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders Friday awarded its 2011 Netizen Prize to the founders of a Tunisian blogging group named Nawaat.
The Netizen Prize goes to a Netizen - a blogger, online journalist or cyber-dissident - who has helped to promote freedom of expression on the Internet. The winner receives 2,500 euros in prize money. Google sponsors the annual award.
Nawaat won against finalists from Bahrain, Belarus, Thailand, China and Vietnam. An independent jury of press specialists determined the winner.
Dominique Gerbaud, Reporters Without Borders President, Jean-François Julliard, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general and Google President for Southern and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa and Carlo d’Asaro Biondo spoke at the award ceremony in Paris. Doctors Without Borders founder and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner gave the prize to Nawaat’s co-founder Riadh Guerfali (Astrubal) at a ceremony in Paris at the Salon des Miroirs.
Created in 2004, Nawaat.org is an independent collective blog operated by Tunisian bloggers as a platform for all “committed citizens.” It played a crucial role in covering the social and political unrest in Tunisia that began on December 17. Astrubal and Sami Ben Gharbia, two well-known bloggers who post regularly on the site.
The site recently created a special page for the WikiLeaks revelations about Tunisia, and another one about the recent events in Sidi Bouzid, which were not covered in the traditional media. It also warns Internet users about the dangers of being identified online and offers advice about circumventing censorship.
“We are deeply honoured by this prize. It will help to strengthen the citizen journalism that we have been practicing for years at Nawaat, despite all the risks involved”, said Riadh Guerfali. “This award is not only a tribute to Nawaat but to all our fellow journalists who often risk their lives to keep working in countries where freedom of expression is suppressed.”
Google’s President for Southern and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa Biondo saluted the Tunisan winners. “We are sponsoring this event and this prize because it defends our company’s core values to make the world’s information universally accessible and useful,” Mr. d’Asaro Biondo said. “Our company is built on the free exchange of information.”
Doctors Without Borders founder and former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner will be a special guest. “Dictatorships define themselves through censorship, press bans and arrests of journalists,” said Mr Kouchner.