Protests in Homs, Syria

Anti-government protests in the besieged city of Homs

Credit: by FreedomHouse on Flickr. Some rights reserved

A group of citizen journalists and activists in Syria have been awarded the Google-sponsored Netizen prize for 2012 by press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

In an announcement RSF said the award was presented to the media centre of the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria (LCCSyria), which "brings together groups of citizen journalists to collect and disseminate, in real time, information and images of Syria’s uprising".

In a bid to ensure information about what is happening in Syria continues to flow, the committees were set up "to keep the world abreast of the violence wracking the country," RSF adds.

"They emerged spontaneously following the start of the Syrian revolution last March, bringing together human rights activists and local journalists, and now are found in most cities and towns across the country.

"Informants on the ground send information and the committees confirm it from multiple sources. A third group translates the news into English and distributes it on the group's website. Videos and pictures are posted on Facebook and on a photo blog."

The award, which includes a 2,500 (£2,085) prize, was accepted by a Syrian activist known as Jasmine (according to Google "she preferred to use a pseudonym to protect her family inside Syria"), who is now said to live in Canada.

"The Netizen Prize proves that our voices were heard and that we succeeded in delivering the stories of millions of Syrians who are struggling on the ground to achieve what they have always dreamed - to live in freedom and dignity," she said in accepting the prize.

"Thank you for acknowledging our presence as an active and effective media organisation."

According to RSF 2011 "was the deadliest year for netizens", with five netizens killed and 200 recorded cases of arrests, which represents a 30 per cent rise on arrests in 2010.

"This is the highest level of violence against netizens ever recorded," RSF says.

"Netizens are more and more persecuted also because they have become instrumental in the news gathering process", president of RSF Dominique Gerbaud said in the award announcement.

"Governments are clamping down with increasingly sophisticated methods of censorship, surveillance and repression. More than ever, Reporters Without Borders is proud to have established with Google’s support an award that recognizes and rewards the courage of netizens."

The Netizen award was presented to the winning group yesterday (Monday, 12 March), World Day against Cyber Censorship. In a report to mark the day yesterday RSF also published a list of 'internet enemies" in 2012, which saw Bahrain and Belarus moved from being "under surveillance" in last year's report, to one of 12 "enemies".

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