Tunisian bloggers win annual Net freedom award

(Cross-posted from the Google European Public Policy Blog.)

Last week we blogged about the annual 2011 Reporters Without Borders Netizen Prize, which recognizes bloggers or Internet activists who defend freedom of expression on the Net. This year’s prize went to Nawaat, a group of Tunisian bloggers.

The independent jury of press specialists agreed that Nawaat’s online reporting played a significant part in helping to depose Tunisia’s longtime dictator, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. It chose Nawaat as the winner from a strong field of finalists from Bahrain, Belarus, Thailand, China and Vietnam.

Created in 2004, Nawaat.org is an independent collective blog operated by Tunisian bloggers as a platform for all “committed citizens.” The bloggers played a crucial role in covering the social and political unrest in Tunisia that began on December 17. Nawaat recently created a special page for the WikiLeaks revelations about Tunisia, and another one about the recent events in Sidi Bouzid, which were not covered in the traditional media. The site also warns Internet users about the dangers of being identified online and offers advice about circumventing censorship.

Pictured above from left to right are: Jean-Fran├žois Julliard, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders; Former French Foreign Minister and founder of Doctors Without Borders, Bernard Kouchner; and Nawaat co-founder Riadh Guerfali, accepting the awards at a ceremony in Paris’ Salon des Mirroirs.

“We are deeply honored by this prize. It will help to strengthen the citizen journalism that we have been practicing for years at Nawaat, despite all the risks involved,” Guerfali said in his acceptance speech. “This award is not only a tribute to Nawaat but to all our fellow journalists who often risk their lives to keep working in countries where freedom of expression is suppressed.”

Google sponsors the annual Netizen prize. First awarded in 2010, it forms part of our commitment to support the free flow of information and free expression online. Last year, Iranian women’s rights activists Change for Equality became the first recipient.

Update: Here's a video of Google's Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf saluting the 2011 Netizen Award winners –