Iranian blogger, journalist and women’s rights activist Jila Bani Yaghoob was awarded the "Reporters Without Borders, Freedom of expression” prize for her blog “We are journalists” (http://www.zhila.org/spip.php?article217) at the sixth international “Best of the Blogs” event held in Berlin by German radio Deutsche Welle from 13 to 15 April.
“Her Persian-language blog deals with the news in Iran, social issues and the subject of women. Jila is in the forefront of the struggle for freedom of expression in her country. She and her family have already paid a high price for her commitment. Reporters Without Borders is proud to award her this prize and through her pay tribute to all Iranian bloggers and journalists who have been arrested, imprisoned for driven into exile these past months”, the organisation said.
Jila Bani Yaghoob and her husband Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee were arrested on 20 June 2009 with around 20 other journalists during demonstrations that followed the contested re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iranian president. She was freed on 24 August but her husband was sentenced to five years in prison. In an open letter posted on Reporters Without Borders website, Jila promises her husband to “turn sorrow into power” (http://fr.rsf.org/letter-to-my-imprisoned-spouse-11-09-2009,34443?var_mode=calcul). He is currently out of prison on licence for a few days.
Bani Yaghoub was one of the first freelance women reporters in Iran. Her career has been marked by intimidation and abusive arrests intended to silence her. But she has never bowed to the constant pressure from the Iranian authorities. She has produced more than 4,000 reports on sensitive issues, such as schooling of women, prostitution, Aids-sufferers, suicide among young people, but also the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
The reformist newspapers for which she worked have mostly been banned. For fear of getting into trouble in their turn, Iranian media refuse to publish her articles. So she works online to cover subjects she cares about and continues to provide news of her country for Iranians and the rest of the world. On her blog, which has grown in influence in recent months, she has spoken out against the prison conditions of her jailed colleagues. Access to her blog is blocked in Iran but it can be accessed through proxies.
Iran was again this year named by Reporters Without Borders as an “Internet enemy” (http://en.rsf.org/internet-enemie-iran,36684.html) A champion of cyber-censorship, the Iranian regime has stepped up online repression and surveillance since 12 June 2009. The regime demonises new media, accusing them of serving foreign interests. Forty journalists, bloggers and netizens are currently behind bars.
The online people’s choice vote for the category “Reporters Without Borders, freedom of expression”, went to Green Dream (http://alasmari.wordpress.com), the blog of Saudi journalist and human rights activist Trad al-Asmari, who describes it as a “free blog to discuss the problems of poverty, unemployment and social justice in Saudi Arabia from the point of view of the people affected by these problems”. (http://alasmari.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/green-dream/). All of these are issues that are not covered by his country’s mainstream media. Saudi Arabia also features on Reporters Without Borders list of “Internet enemies (http://en.rsf.org/internet-enemie-saudi-arabia,36681.html).
The competition includes the following categories: “Best blog”, "Best videoblog”, “Best podcast” and “Freedom of expression” and awards prizes to blogs in each one of the competition’s languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Indonesian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. In this sixth BOBs event, a special prize was awarded to a blog devoted to the theme of climate change. And for the first time there was a prize for “Best blog in Bengali”. To see the full results go to: www.thebobs.com.
Last year the “freedom of expression” award went to:
- The blog of Zeng Jinyan, wife of human rights activist Hu Jia, who has been in prison in China for nearly two years (http://zengjinyan.spaces.live.com/).
- “4equality“, the campaign to collect on million signatures on a petition in support of women’s rights in Iran (http://4equality.info).
The international jury is made of journalists, blog specialists and a representative of Reporters Without Borders.
The presentation ceremony will be held during Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum in Bonn in June 2010.
The awards event took place in the framework of the re:publica conference devoted to social networking sites (http://re-publica.de/10/en/).