Reporters Without Borders, with support from Google, Thursday awarded its Netizen of the Year 2013 award to Vietnamese blogger Huynh Ngoc Chenh.
Reporters Without Borders chose the nominees and more than 40,000 Internet users visited the YouTube site from around the world. They selected the winner on Reporters’ You Tube Channel. The award ceremony will take place in Paris on March 12 at the Google office on the occasion of the World Day against Cyber Censorship.
Huynh Ngoc Chenh is one of Vietnam’s most influential blogger. His blog attracts about 15,000 visitors per day, even though readers must use software to circumvent censorship to gain access. Chenh criticizes the government and defends freedom of expression. He focuses on issues of democracy, human rights and the territorial disputes between Vietnam and China. Authorities have threatened him numerous times for his articles and police monitor his communications.
“This award represents an inspiration to me as well as for all bloggers, independent journalists in Vietnam, those who face the restrictions about the right of freedom of expression,” Huynh Ngoc Chenh said by telephone from Ho Chi Minh City. “It demonstrates the world community’s support and will make us more audacious in raising our concerns and continue our struggle for freedom of information. It will help people scared off and speaking out.”
Vietnam is on the list of "Enemies of the Internet" by Reporters Without Borders and is the 172nd out of 179 in the latest World Press Freedom Index. Bloggers and other netizens are facing particular repression. Their relatives are also harassed and threatened. The authorities have stepped up efforts to increase surveillance and remove "sensitive" contents. On January 9, 14 dissidents - including 8 bloggers and citizen-journalists - were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 3 to 13 years.
With 31 bloggers and citizen-journalists currently behind bars, Vietnam is the third largest prison in the world for netizens behind China and Oman.
“We are pleased to award this prize to a courageous Vietnamese blogger and thereby recognize the activities of online news providers in a country marked by draconian censorship and growing surveillance of dissidents,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“Despite the risks, bloggers and netizens continue to inform their fellow citizens. In Vietnam, they now fill the void left by the state-run media, which are subjected to very strict news control and relay the government’s views. By tackling subjects that are sensitive but of general interest, Huynh Ngoc Chenh helps freedom of information to progress in his country. He is an example for netizens all over the world to follow.”
Today, according to Google, some 40 countries are engaged in Internet censorship. Google was the first company to publish a Transparency report that shows interruptions to the flow of information from our tools and services. Google also is a founding member of the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder organization — including human rights and press freedom groups, investors, academics, and companies — whose members commit to protect online free expression.
“We’re proud to support Reporters Without Borders with this important prize that highlights the pressure many governments around the globe are are putting on the Internet,” said William Echikson, Head of Free Expression for Europe, Africa and Middle-East at Google. “Our products ‐‐ from search and Blogger to YouTube and Google Docs ‐‐ have been blocked in more than 25 of the approximately 150 countries where we offer our services. Initiatives such as the Netizen prize shine a light on those who stand up in support for online free expression.”
Reporters Without Borders launched the World Day against cyber-censorship back in 2008 in order to protect a single Internet, free and accessible to all. Google has partnered with Reporters Without Borders in 2010 to award the annual Netizen who recognizes a user, blogger or cyber-dissident who has distinguished himself by his advocacy of Internet freedom of expression.
Reporters Without Borders will release on March 12 the 2013 Enemies of the Internet report, a special issue dedicated to online surveillance that points out to a selection of countries and companies.