Wednesday, February 27, 2013 | 7:12 PM
Labels: Free Expression
One in three Internet users suffers from restricted access to the web due to government censorship, filtering or online surveillance, according to the free expression advocacy group Reporters Without Borders. Around the world, bloggers and cyber-dissidents are jailed for expressing their views. Reporters Without Borders makes sure their struggles are not forgotten.
At Google, we believe in a free and open Internet where everyone can express their opinions and learn from others. For this reason, for the past several years we’ve partnered with Reporters Without Borders to organize their annual Netizen of the Year Award, which honors an Internet user, blogger or cyber-dissident who has made a notable contribution in defense of online freedom of expression. Last year the award went to a Syrian journalist. In 2011 it went to Nawaat, a group blog run by independent Tunisian bloggers. In 2010, the Netizen Award was awarded to Iranian cyber-feminists.
This year for the first time, Reporters Without Borders is asking you to help decide who will win the award. Nine “netizens”—from Bulgaria, Egypt, Honduras, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mali, Russia, Senegal and Vietnam—have been nominated for consideration. Watch the videos showing their stories and then vote at youtube.com/netizen2013.
We hope you’ll be as inspired as we have been by these brave people. The winner, based on votes from people like you around the world, will be announced on March 7. He or she will be invited to the award ceremony taking place at Google’s Paris office on March 12—the World Day Against Cyber Censorship.
2013 Netizen Award Nominees
- Assen Yordanov: Founder of the investigative journalism website Bivol.bg, Assen has published exclusives about corruption, flaws in the judicial system, and links between politicians and organized crime.
- Mosireen: Founded and run by a group of citizen-journalists and activists to document the 2011 revolution, the Mosireen collective traces its origins to the “explosion of citizen journalism and cultural activism in Egypt during the revolution.” Its contributors collected photos, videos and eyewitness accounts of the 18 days of demonstrations that led to Hosni Mubarak’s fall. Their YouTube channel at first just showed video footage shot by demonstrators. But they now also produce videos and video news reports.
- Itsmania Pineda Platero: This independent journalist, blogger and human rights defender reports on the “maras,” the gangs of extremely violent young criminals that have spread throughout Central America. A vocal critic of her country’s June 2009 coup d’état and its impact on freedom of information – 23 journalists have been murdered since the military took power – she led a peaceful demonstration in front of the presidential palace, which police repressed with violence. After receiving repeated death threats, Reporters Without Borders has helped her to obtain personal protection.
- Shiva Nazar Ahari: A 27-year-old human rights activist and cyber-dissident, Shiva is serving a four-year jail sentence for her activities as editor the Azad Zan (Women’s Liberation) website, She also has been sentenced to 74 lashes. Seventeen other netizens are currently detained in Iran, where the Islamic Republic’s authorities treat independent news and information providers, especially women cyber-dissidents, as unwanted witnesses.
- Murat Tungishbayev: An opposition activist, Murat created the election monitoring coalition “Saylau,” producing an interactive map to register fraud during the January 2012 legislative elections. The National Security Committee summoned him for questioning about his links with labour activists and opposition politicians. When investigators tried to force him to testify against two detainees, he fled the country.
- Oumarou Mohamed Lamine: This reporter and programme host on Radio AADAR FM (Adar Koima - “Joy of the Hill”), was one of the few who provided information to the outside world from northern Mali during its occupation by Islamic jihadists. For his efforts the jihadists harassed and vandalised his radio equipment. Oumarou resisted by posting his articles online. His blog is found at oumaroubah.afronaute.info.
- Suren Gazaryan: An environmentalist and opposition activist, this popular blogger distinguished himself by his coverage of environmental issues and corruption linked to the preparation of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. His LiveJournal blog revealed that Sochi’s regional government has built a dacha in the middle of a protected forest. After he was given three-year suspended jail sentences, he fled Russia and sought asylum in Estonia.
- Cheikh Fall: Website project leader, blogger and voracious Twitter poster, Cheikh Fall is the founder of Sunu2012, a participative website that was created to monitor Senegal’s 2012 presidential election. The website provided information about the candidates, their programmes, their positions on key issues and how they or their campaign staff could be contacted.
- Huynh Ngoc Chenh: This blogger challenges his communist leaders by writing about democracy, human rights and anti-Chinese demonstrations over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Censors often block his site, forcing Vietnamese internet readers to resort to VPN connections. Police keep him under constant surveillance and tap his phone.
We are proud to work with Reporters Without Borders. Above all, we salute the courage of men and women around the globe who fight every day for a fundamental right: freedom of information.