Tunisian Revolt Bloggers Win Google-Sponsored Web Freedom Prize

A Tunisian blogging collective that compiled WikiLeaks revelations on the country’s now-deposed government won Reporters Without Borders’ annual prize for promoting freedom of expression on the Internet, highlighting the role of online media in this year’s Middle East uprisings.

Nawaat.org, a Tunisian site offering news, commentary, and advice on circumventing censorship will be presented with the Netizen Prize in Paris today, Reporters Without Borders said in an e-mailed statement. Nawaat beat finalists from countries including Bahrain, Thailand and China for the award, which is sponsored by search-engine owner Google Inc. (GOOG)

Social media and other online information sources have taken center stage in uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya, with participants using Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook to spread news and co-ordinate protests. In Libya, where rebels are fighting forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi, Internet access has been periodically blocked in much of the country since early March, sending traffic plunging below normal levels.

“These movements have demonstrated how the Internet has become a genuine tool of mobilization,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Jean-Francois Julliard said by phone yesterday. “The revolutions took place in the street, but they clearly used social media and other technologies as tools.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this year announced the creation of a State Department office dedicated to online issues, and criticized efforts to block Internet access in countries such as Egypt.

Google, owner of the world’s most-used search engine, last year suspended its Chinese operations after declining to censor search results in line with government requests.

To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Campbell in Paris at mcampbell39@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root in Paris at vroot@bloomberg.net;

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