International activists from Bangladesh, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Syria grabbed the spotlight at The Bobs 2015 award ceremony and turned it to reflect on people who are too seldom heard from.
The award ceremony for the 11th edition of the annual The Bobs – Best in Online Activism – started on Tuesday with a moving speech from Rafida Ahmed, one of the bloggers who runs Mukto Mona – which won The Bobs’ Jury Award in the Best Social Activism category.
Best of Social Activism: Mukto Mona
After watching as her husband, Avijit Roy, was murdered on the streets of Dhaka in February in a brutal attack that also put her in intensive care, Ahmed and others at Mukto Mona continue to write post promoting a secular Bangladesh and the free, safe exchange of ideas.
The Bobs’ jury member Shahidul Alam praised the work done by bloggers at Mukto Mona.
“It is incredible that despite the risk, the people of Mukto Mona risk their lives to do this work,” he told the audience that gathered in Bonn, Germany, as part of the annual DW Global Media Forum.
But Ahmed added that it wasn’t herself that she saw in the most danger – despite being on hit list of bloggers drawn up by Islamist extremists in Bangladesh.
“I am here,” she said. “I am not too worried about myself. I am worried about the other bloggers in Bangladesh. They are the ones in trouble.”
Best of Arts & Media: Zaytoun, the little refugee
In the Arts & Media category, The Bobs award went to Zaytoun, the little refugee. Mohamed Tayeb of the @ZaytounGang received the award for the video game that puts players in the shoes of a Palestinian boy living in a refugee camp in Damascus.
Speaking to the crowd from behind a scarf, Tayeb said he covered his face because the face of refugees in Syria and other parts of the world is not recognized by the international community.
“It’s time to cancel passports and nationalities and be humans,” he said. “We’re all humans.”
The Bobs jury member Leila Nachawati praised the project for bringing the daily lives of refugees into the spotlight.
“The Zaytoun project expresses the voice of refugees,” she said. “And we need to listen.”
Best of Privacy & Security: Rancho Electrónico
Rubén Omar Valencia Pérez received The Bobs award for Rancho Electrónico, a Mexican collective that promotes Internet security and works to show people how to protect themselves and their data while online.
The project’s work on the ground in Mexico, a country where people can disappear without a trace was helping “more and more communities learn to defend themselves and organize themselves,” he said.
“Rancho Electrónico is something exceptional, and we need more exceptional people,” said The Bobs jury member Renata Avila.
DW Freedom of Speech Award: Raif Badawi
For the first time in the 11-year history of The Bobs, Deutsche Welle also gave out a special prize, the DW Freedom of Speech Award. This special award went to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who is currently imprisoned as was sentenced to 10 years in jail, a huge fine and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam.
Jochen Wegner, the editor-in-chief of Zeit.de, pointed out the award for Badawi was a bittersweet moment, as it was clear Saudi officials would not release him despite international calls for him to be set free.
“Despite knowing his views clashed with Saudi mainstream, Raif Badawi continued to speak his mind,” Wegner said, adding that every post Badawi made at the site he founded, Free Saudi Liberals, put him in greater danger than most journalists in Germany would face in their entire lives. “He is also a champion of secularism and of the separation of church and state.”
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar sent a video message from Canada, where she has fled for safety reasons.
“Do not forget Raif’s case – his fate and the fate of his children is in your hands,” she said.
A rousing standing ovation from everyone in attendance and a vow from Deutsche Welle Director General Peter Limbourg that DW would continue to report on Badawi’s case showed many would remember.
More pictures from the award ceremony.
Have a look at all the winners of The Bobs 2015 – in all 14 languages.
You can also check out all the nominees – there’s a lot of inspirational work to see!