Google honours Iranian women bloggers


Internet giant Google on Thursday joined a top journalists' rights group in rewarding a collective of Iranian women bloggers for their reporting on last year's post-election unrest.

The online journalists of women's rights blog were given the "Net Citizen" award, a new prize by Google and French media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to defend freedom of expression online.

Dozens of the Iranian site's contributors have been detained for reporting online on huge anti-government demonstrations that broke out amid claims of fraud in Iran's election, RSF said.

"The Iranian women's movement has always shown resistance... Now the movement is bringing its experience and methods of working democratically into cyberspace," said one of its members, Parvin Adalan, accepting the award at Google's Paris offices.

Google and RSF said in a statement that the site, formed in 2006, "has become a point of reference for information on women's rights in Iranian society," and "Iranian cyber-feminists have created new spaces for expression."

"Female online journalists show the world the abuses of power suffered in recent months by demonstrators and the population in general" in Iran, they said.

Among others shortlisted for the prize was Tan Zuoren, a 55-year-old Chinese journalist jailed for five years for his reporting on poorly built schools that were destroyed in the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, southwestern China.

Google and RSF said Tan, a contributor to the Chinese language human rights blog, had urged "Internet users to mobilise to establish the truth" and was harassed by authorities and put on trial for subversion.

Tan's nomination came at a sensitive time for Google's relations with China.

The US firm has threatened to pull out of China, the world's biggest online market, accusing authorities there of online censorship and of hacking the accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

Google senior vice-president David Drummond said at Thursday's prize-giving that Iran and China were among the regimes that posed "the most systemic risk and the most immediate risk to individuals" by cracking down on online dissent.

The prize was awarded on the eve of RSF's "World Day Against Cyber Censorship" on Friday when the group publishes a list of countries it accuses of "displaying a disturbing attitude towards the Internet."

This year it said it has added several countries, including Australia, South Korea, Turkey and Russia, to the list of states it is monitoring for breaches of online media rights.

A senior manager of US Internet giant Google, David Drummond, said there was an "alarming trend" of government interference in online freedom, not only in countries that are widely judged to have poor human rights records.


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