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Taking a new look at digital activism


For the past 11 years, The Bobs is where DW has honored the world’s most courageous, creative and compelling international online activists and bloggers.

The 2015 competition is kicking off with new categories that introduce a fresh focus on how digital activism is changing the world. The Bobs jury categories will now put the spotlight on the critical issues of privacy and security, arts and media and social change. Judges will determine how contestants have used their digital skills and activism to create positive impacts within these fields. The new format also allows for more than one contestant to stand out for their exemplary work.

How can a digital crusader improve economic development and living conditions? Who is producing the most innovative or avant-garde formats to speak out online? What is the most cutting-edge software for protecting data and digital privacy? On June 22 at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, we will all get the chance to find out.

The core values of the Bobs remain the same, even if they will now be presented more directly. Last year’s winner of best blog was the Egyptian photo blogger, Mosa’ab Elshamy, who showed courage combined with a brilliant eye for powerful imagery. His blog is an example of where fine art meets journalism. In 2013 the “grand prize” winner was the Chinese blogger Li Chengpeng, whose tireless efforts for freedom of speech made him a digital celebrity in China and a salient example of contemporary activism as well as a trendsetter for those living under oppression. No matter the year or the format, the Bobs have always looked for the bravest and the best.

If you are a blogger or online activist you can submit your website now. You have until March 12 to enter your submissions.


2015-02-20 | 11:15



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Using digital media to ignite and organize public protest

The power of modern communication is being felt around the world, particularly in the form of organizing public protest. What is the role of the media?  Both traditional and new media affect the dynamics of how protest movements are formed and publicized.

At this year’s Global Media forum, a panel discussion organized by the international news agency Pressenza titled Big media vs. social media in the global, nonviolent and humanist revolution, will focus on how protests are organized from the ground up by using social media. The talk will emphasize how social media fosters effective forms of non-violent protest. Speakers include a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement and Pressenza bureau chiefs.

Covering another angle, the global activism network, Avaaz, will be sharing some of their secrets and networking strategies in a panel discussion: The secret of mobilizing 34 million people.  Avaaz helps local issues gain global recognition by using the power of community-powered politics. The discussion will shed light on where Avaaz wants to go in the future and on best practices in creating positive change through community activism.

The international campaigning and advocacy agency One, will be also host a discussion: How digital activism can help achieve real change. The talk will feature insight on how digital petitions can translate into tangible action and how online activism combined with traditional campaigns can be particularly effective.

The 2014 DW Global Media Forum is starting soon and there will be a rich variety of experts and thinkers gathering in Bonn who represent organizations from all over the world. In the weeks leading up to the Global Media Forum, we’ll give you a sneak preview of the partners, issues and hidden gems you can look for at this year’s conference. There is an intriguing variety of issues that will be discussed.

Next week we will be previewing three further Global Media Forum events on cyber security and data protection in the oft-perilous digital world.

You can find all information on the Global Media Forum here.


2014-05-26 | 11:46



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The Bobs moves into the voting phase

There were more than 3,000 submissions to this year’s Bobs awards. Our jury is currently selecting this year’s finalists and users will be able to scroll through 14 language’s worth of interesting and inspiring people’s work starting April 2. The Bobs’ jury members will get together for two days of discussions starting on May 4 to decide on the winners of the 2014 Jury Awards. They’ll dig into the details of each of the nominees before reaching their verdict in the six multilingual categories.

On April 2, we’ll also start the online voting phase at for the People’s Choice Awards in all the contest’s categories.

The Bobs awards honor websites and projects  in 14 languages that champion the open exchange of ideas and freedom of expression. When the annual awards launched in 2004, blogs were just beginning to establish themselves as a new type of media and The Bobs aimed to show that this new form of communication was worthy of being taken seriously and to point to the excellent example of work being done online to foster dialogue across language barriers.  The Bobs represent one of Deutsche Welle’s ongoing efforts to contribute to promoting freedom of expression and the upholding of human rights on the Internet and around the world.




2014-03-28 | 2:04



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The Bobs: Best Blog Award to be presented to an unlikely patriot

Li Chengpeng didn’t start out wanting to make a difference. In his past life he was a cool and popular soccer announcer. He was also a believer in the Chinese government. Now he’s a little older and has become an unlikely patriot. He has achieved a certain celebrity status in China, not for being a good-looking sportscaster, but rather for his daring social criticism. Five years ago Li became a online activist fighting against the illusions propagated by the Chinese government. And he is definitely still cool. His blog has over 7 million fans who call him “Big Eyes Li”. He has a special influence on the young and media savvy in China who are working on creating a new information generation that is nipping at the edges of a civil society. He is also the 2013 Bobs winner for best blog.

“I view the Bobs awards as one of the few really important prizes I have been given in the past years,” said Li in an interview with DW after the prize was announced. “The Bobs is precious to me because I don’t receive any awards in China. As you might know, authors who speak out the truth have a rough time.”

A free press is a vital ingredient if economic development is to improve the well-being of Chinese people. This will not be easy, and support from places like DW plays an important role.

Li will be in Germany next Tuesday to accept the award at the 2013 Global Media Forum in Bonn and he is looking forward to meeting like minded bloggers. “I would like to speak with them about how they managed to break through their walls,” he said.

Representatives from the five other jury winners will join Li as a part of the ceremony.  Also coming out of China is the winner for best innovation,,  a play on words from the Chinese microblogging website SinaWeibo. FreeWeibo provides access to content that has been filtered by Chinese government censors – and the award will be presented to Carl Lee in Bonn.  Also receiving their awards will be  Stephanie Hankey for the Most Creative and Original, Kodjo  Kiki Kouassi for the Reporters Without Borders Award, Houda Lamqaddam for Best Social Activism and Acter Mahfuza for the Global Media Forum Award.

The quake that changed his life
Crumbling walls are what changed Li from conformist to crusader. After witnessing the destructive aftermath of an earthquake in 2008, he was deeply moved by the loss of life and was compelled to independently investigate construction codes. He discovered many buildings were built using sub-standard materials except for one school that didn’t collapse because it was actually built properly. This inspired his first essay, “The truth about the amazing survival of students and teachers at the Longhan primary school.”

Using his typical sarcasm Li has said about his life: “before 2008, I was an idiot.” The earthquake collapsed Li’s illusions and he realized that truly being a patriot meant working for the well-being of his fellow citizens and providing an example for others. Since then he has been working to tell the truth about the small things that can have a big impact.

“He gives young people a very good example of how to influence the future cause of China,” said Chinese journalist and Bobs jury member, Hu Yong. “The award shows that the jury members also think that a blogger like Li Chengpeng can influence millions of young Chinese people in making them aware of censorship, to be more free, more open and to be more active in the political process.”

In January thousands of fans lined the street for the release of his new book, a collection of essays titled, “The whole world knows”. At the event he was forbidden by authorities from communicating with the audience in any way but he managed to sneak across one message – “I love you all”, written in marker on his t-shirt.

Find out more about the Bobs and all of this year’s winners at


2013-06-11 | 9:45



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Changing the world, one Bobs at a time

No two Bobs are the same. Every year Bobs winners speak out in new and powerful ways. After the ceremony, the real award is recognition. This is something Cuban online activist Yaoni Sánchez knows a lot about.

In 2008 when she won the Bobs for best blog, she could only leave a video message to let everyone know what an important contribution the Bobs award would make in encouraging free speech in Cuba.  After waiting nine years and winning many awards in absentia, the laws in Cuba changed and Yaoni Sánchez could travel the world and collect all of the trophies that had been put on ice while she was stuck behind a wall of oppression.

“We don’t have a wall in Cuba made of cement,” she said while at the Berlin Wall during a visit in May to collect her Bobs award. “Our wall is a system of control, censorship, and surveillance – it is harder to tear it down.”

While technology enables change, Sánchez personifies it. Her blog may often be blocked, but actions speak louder than words and awards like the Bobs take her message outside of the box. Sánchez speaks for Cuba however what she is doing goes much farther. Her work in exposing the truth about the hardships of everyday life encourages activists all over the world.

When accepting her Bobs award in May, Sanchez dedicated it to people everywhere who are using new technology to speak out and improve their lives. DW Editor-in-Chief Ute Schaeffer added, “we are proud to be able to support bloggers and Internet activists like you in the fight for human rights and freedom of expression – your efforts are an invaluable step toward a freer Cuban society. With this award we want to unmistakably point out how important your work is.”

Bringing the voices together
Since 2004 the Bobs has brought together people from around the world who are working behind the screens and exposing truths that would otherwise stay in the dark. It isn’t surprising that in the past many winners have not been allowed to travel and participate in the award ceremonies. Ironically by preventing people from leaving, authoritarian governments do more to emphasize why the Bobs are so important than the mere presence of an activist ever could. Holding people like Sánchez back only makes them more interesting.

The 2013 winner for best blog, Chinese activist Li Chengpeng, said Chinese authorities were “out of their minds” when they forbid him to communicate with thousands of fans at a recent book signing. Sánchez has also met resistance even outside of Cuba. At a recent appearance in Italy, Castro loyalists threw fake US Dollar bills on the stage with Sánchez’s face printed on them. She sat there almost smiling, the senseless protest of her as being a “puppet for the west” was almost doing her work for her.

But there is still much work to be done and the Bobs are there to help show the world that there are fewer and fewer places for lies to hide and more opportunities and technologies for people to tell the truth about what is happening in their communities. Websites like the 2013 Bobs winner for best innovation Free Weibo, which posts content censored in China are the tip of iceberg for new technology getting around censorship. The 2011 Bobs winner for “best use of technology for social good” was a Russian website that tracked corrupt purchases by state officials. The list of Bobs winners is sure to get more interesting as technology improves but we should always remember it is people that count the most.

The endeavors of Yoani Sánchez, and many other bloggers working all over the world, remind us that freedom of speech is not to be taken for granted, even if the privileges enjoyed by many people may cause us to forget. What they are doing is exactly what the Bobs and DW stand for and will continue to support until every voice can be heard.

The winners of this year’s Bobs will be presented with their awards at the Global Media Forum in Bonn on June 18. You can find out more about the conference here.


2013-06-07 | 8:41



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