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Award-winning Online Activism – Deutsche Welle and The Bobs 2014

Every year, Deutsche Welle awards The Bobs to outstanding internet sites whose online activism goes that extra mile to champion freedom of expression and human rights. The Bobs are highly diverse: they can be awarded for photos of a night-time Tahrir Square in the throes of the Egyptian Revolution or for online petitions against powerful companies that are damaging the environment. One of the nominees tells us what we should do to be successful online activists.

There are easier tasks: ‘The Bobs 2014’ jury had to narrow its nominations down to six. More than 150 bloggers and website creators from around the globe were accepted as finalists for the Best of Online Activism award. The wide range of different contenders was spread across six meta categories and 14 language categories. The diversity of languages, the international jury and the active participation of the global user community ensure that the nominated blogs and sites resonate across language barriers.

10 years of ‘The Bobs’

Deutsche Welle launched The Bobs in 2004 in recognition of enduring and dedicated online activism. In spite of the diversity of topics and web designs, the internet activists have one thing in common: they foster freedom of expression and an open exchange of ideas on the internet. The Bobs also kick-start international discussions about media formats. Internet users are not only able to find out about The Bobs, but are actually invited to join in by nominating and voting for blogs and websites themselves. For each of the six meta-language categories, there is a Jury and a People’s Choice Award. The winners in the 14 language categories are voted for online by internet users only.

The Bobs Award – honouring human rights activism

The most prestigious of The Bobs  is first place in the ‘Best Blog’ category. This is awarded to a blog whose human rights advocacy constitutes the defining feature of its design and contents. In 2014, the award goes to the Facebook site of the 23-year-old Egyptian photo journalist, Mosa'ab Elshamy, whose comments and photos capture moments presenting the social fabric of his home country. At the same time, the site gives visitors the chance to interact. Mosa'ab Elshamy also has a blog  where he showcases his photos and photo essays (some of which have won awards) documenting the Egyptian Revolution, the war in Gaza or everyday life in Cairo.

Video: Egyptian photo-blogger wins DW's Bobs Award

Sustainable online activism

One of the websites currently enriching online environmental activism was set up by the Indonesian Forum for Environment, Walhi. An Indonesian-English website, it was nominated for this year’s Bobs Award in the category ‘Global Media Forum’. In terms of its thematic orientation, this award category is based on the respective motto of Deutsche Welle’s annual Global Media Forum. In 2014, the Forum took a look at how networking, interactivity and participation are impacting and driving democratic processes.

‘Our website is the gateway to Walhi. That’s because media such as blogs or websites are the most effective, up-to-the-minute means of publishing and communicating information.’ Neng Mirawati, or Mira for short, is responsible for Walhi’s website and IT. ‘It doesn’t matter where the user is located, he or she can download and read our latest publications even with a smartphone.’

Interactive and participatory communication for the good of the environment

This easy access to information was also one of the main reasons the NGO set up this website in the first place. Walhi can present itself to a wider audience in Indonesia, but overseas, too. ‘What’s more’, says Mira, if our media campaign has a greater outreach we can generate support, such as financial assistance for the victims of environmental disasters, faster and on a wider scale.’

Another fail-safe mechanism for making sure the latest bulletins and appeals of this environmental organisation are accessible on the net on time is the internal update system: ‘Walhi members can upload various contents to the website themselves. The administrator just has to check and release them.’ Besides appeals for donations, Mira also cites petitions as an example of Walhi’s public campaigns. ‘One of our appeals resulted in a company having its permission to slash and burn forest areas in the Riau Archipelago on the east coast of Sumatra revoked. Shortly after we posted the appeal on our website, it was signed by some 12,752 supporters!’

Global Media Forum 2014

Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum has taken place in Bonn from 30 June to 2 July 2014. The key topic headlining the event was ‘From Information to Participation: Challenges for the Media’.

The Alumniportal at the Global Media Forum 2014

The Bobs: Online activism is contagious!

An appeal for donations for Syrian refugees, an online petition protesting about the construction of a bypass road or the latest information about events in Ukraine – just how successful online activists who campaign for more freedom of expression, for the observance of human rights and for more environmental sustainability actually are can be seen in their various blogs and websites on the internet.

Do you know a blog or do you run a website yourself that advocates freedom of expression, or social and political sustainability? In the community group ‘Media and Journalism’ you can team up with a large number of like-minded and dedicated users and find more information on The Bobs!


Author: Sabine Müller

July 2014

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