The annual event is organized by Deutche Welle, Germany’s prime cultural export vehicle in the area of traditional media. Like the BBC, the other world-famous public broadcaster to have emerged from a rich and powerful Western European nation, Deutsche Welle has been at the cutting edge of development of online journalism.
According to the contest rules, an independent jury first filters the selection of nominees, and then the public has its say. At the end there are two kinds of winners, those chosen by the jury and those chosen by Internet users; the latter can vote once a day, using their Facebook and Twitter accounts for easy login.
In the overall Best Blog category are two Global Voices (GV) Tunisian authors who mainly publish in Arabic and French, and sometimes English.
Nawaat [fr, ar] is a Tunisian collective blog about news and politics, co-founded in 2004 by veteran activist and GV Advocacy Director Sami Ben Gharbia. In addition, Nawaat’s outlet 24sur24 [fr, ar], a multiple-user platform for documenting and sharing multimedia information on a 24-hour basis, is also nominated for the Reporters Without Borders Award.
In December 2010, Lina Ben Mhenni was among the first to spread the word about the revolution outside of Tunisia, with her article that explained how the suicide of poverty-stricken Mohamed Bouazizi incited the first riots in Sidi Bouzid. Her blog A Tunisian Girl [fr] has been nominated both in the categories of Best Blog, and Best Blog French.
The two face a diverse array of nine tough competitors though, including: hilarious cartoonists – Russian Egor Zhun and Iranian Vahid Nikgoo; somber works advocating the rights of people with disabilities Arquitetura Acessível (Accessible Architecture) by Thais Frota from Brazil; and the records of the personal journey of Sabrina Chowdhury from Bangladesh.
Global Voices represents!
The Best Blog French category also features candidate Les informations en direct des villages maliens (Direct information from the villages of Mali) [fr] by GV French translator Boukary Konaté, a teacher from Bamako, Mali. On his other blog Fasokan [fr], he also translates the content of this blog into Bambara. He recently won a Rising Voices grant to further develop online communication in his native region of Ségou, through provision of more local-language content and providing skills and knowledge to villagers so they can make use of new technologies.
The Best Blog Arabic category also features a seasoned GV contributor – Hisham Almiraat. On his blog Mamfakinch (No Compromises!) [ar] he covers the ongoing pro-democracy movement developments in his native Morocco. This blog also provides coverage in French.
Best Blog English features another nominee with close ties to Morocco – United States-based Jillian C. York. She is a GV Board member and a co-founder of Talk Marocco, a blog that swept both the Jury and the User Award in this category at BOBs 2009/10. This year, she goes it alone with her self-titled personal blog, which she uses to write “about free expression, politics, and the Internet, with particular focus on the Arab world.”
Not surprisingly, this year quite a few blogs from North Africa/Middle East have been nominated in the general categories, indicating the influence of these social media outside of their respective cultural spheres, and the worldwide interest about the current events in the region. An instance of this trend is Yaqoob in Japan Show, which is nominated in the Best Video Channel category. Through it, GV contributor Yacoub Al-Slaise utilizes the popularity of Facebook as a springboard to reach people in his native Bahrain, while observing the situation from his current residence in Japan.
In addition, one of the nominees for the category Best Use of Technology for Social Good is Kolena Laila (project translates as ‘We are all Laila'), a collaborative effort providing opportunities for Arab women to speak out against injustices they face, founded by Egyptian engineer and GV contributor Eman AbdElRahman. Participants in this initiative devote a day to blog about this topic in synchronicity, and since its beginning in 2006 the movement has gained adherents in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen, and Libya.
Another blog advocating women’s rights deserves a special mention. Gawaahi Speak Out has been nominated in two categories: Best Social Activism Campaign and Best English Blog. Co-founded by Sana Saleem, a digital renaissance woman and a prolific GV contributor from Pakistan, it features testimonials by people who fight to end traditions of abuse and muted consent through personal examples. Some of the posts involve the use of digital storytelling, a multidisciplinary approach involving use of new technologies, psychology and forms of group therapy.
Voting for the BOBs 2011 is open until April 11. It takes less than a minute per category, and has a pretty nifty automated feature for informing your friends/followers on the most popular social media.