BLOGGER FOR A CAUSE: Trad Alasmari, winner of “Pups Prize” at the 6th annual Best of Blogs Awards (BOBs) in Germany, and his blog “Holom Akhdar.”
By SALEH FAREED
Published: May 12, 2010 16:27
Saudi blogger, journalist and human rights activist, Trad Alasmari, won the people’s choice vote for “Reporters Without Borders, Freedom of Expression” for his Arabic blog: “Holom Akhdar” (Green Dream). “Holom Akhdar” is a blog that discusses the problems of poverty, unemployment and social justice in Saudi Arabia from the point of view of the people affected by these problems.
As a result, Alasmari was awarded the German “Pups Prize” at the sixth annual Best of the Blogs Awards (BOBs), which is an international recognition that is annually selected by a body of arbitrators for the best blogs, languages, video and reports without frontiers.
The BOBs, which is held in Berlin, Germany, are the world’s largest international Weblog awards, and are founded and sponsored by Deutsche Welle — the German International Broadcasting Service. The awards go for Weblogs, podcasts and videoblags in the followng 11 languages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, German, English, French, Indonesian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. The competition kicks off each year in the beginning of September and ends with a public award ceremony. The international jury is made of journalists, blog specialists and a representative of Reporters Without Borders. The ceremony will be held on May 22 at Bonne, Germany.
Alasmari’s blog was among 928 blogs dedicated for press freedom. This victory is strong evidence that blogs are the ultimate liberal outlet for Arab people to express their concerns and difficulties in life, unlike in traditional media.
“Honestly, there are too many obstacles in the advancement of true media in the Arab world, and those obstacles are preventing us from saying the truth as is,” states Alasmari.
The good news was celebrated last month in Jeddah in a ceremony by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industrial (JCCI) honoring Alasmari. In this occasion, Dr. Abdullah Mura’ai bin Mahfooz, stated that the year of 2010 is the year for honoring distinguished Saudis since novelist Abdul Khal received the “Booker Prize” this year.
“By winning this prestigious award, it clearly shows that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s blossoming era, we have become able to freely discuss our concerns with transparency,” says Alasmari. “Without a doubt, things are getting better every single day.”
Alasmari says that he was inspired by Indian writer, Amartia Sun, (who was granted the Noble Prize in 1998) to create his blog and sees poverty as a deprivation of the ability of an individual to attain his/her needs directly from his/her income or governmental subsidy.
Alasmari has a six-minute documentary film on his blog titled “My Salary is SR1,000” which explores the problem of poverty in the Kingdom. The film illustrates the real life of a Saudi security guard who lives on a salary of SR1,000 and has to support his family of seven.
Alasmari took the initiative to create the short documentary after the Head of the Human Rights Commission said to Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper: “the poverty issue in Saudi Arabia is a minor one and is limited to remote areas.”
Contrary to that claim, the film depicts that the poor are also seen at major cities and in large numbers too — in other words, such poor are living around us. Moreover, some of these poor are working with the Human Rights Commission as security guards with salaries barely enough to provide for an average family for one third of the month. In the context of the film, the main actor hammers the small details of his work, how he is deprived of availing his due leave, how he has to work for 12 hours a day without weekends, without health insurance and social insurance.
The film thus asks a clear question: Is every employee living below the poverty line?
Poverty is a real problem in the Kingdom
We all recall the field visit made by King Abdullah to the poor quarters in the middle of Saudi Arabia’s capital — Riyadh. In fact, such visit by the father of this nation was a courageous move and a direct recognition of the existence of the poverty issue.
During his visit, King Abdullah said: “Those who see things on reality see things in a different way from those who just hear about things. Therefore, it is imperative for us to abandon closed doors offices and remember that the poverty issue cannot be resolved in a blink of eye.”
Accordingly, the theme of this film is based on such vision adopted by the leader thus reflecting the facts in order to enable those responsible for the management of poverty issue to learn more about such major and catastrophic issue.
People are unaware of the poverty issue
A study conducted in 2005 by Rashed S. Albaz, a professor of social service at Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, indicated that: “Every Saudi with a monthly salary less than SR1,600 is barely getting by, and those who make less than SR1,200 a month are under the scope of poverty.” This is true since such a small salary is barely sufficient to cover basic food costs, house rent and bills for power, water, telephone and schools — especially if one has a family of seven.
Poverty still not taken seriously
Unfortunately, governmental concerned ministries such as the Ministry of Labor still handle such poverty issues in such an unserious manner. Furthermore, they are unable to deal with the root causes of poverty and have failed to identify who are to be classified as poor and how to eliminate poverty. The Ministry of Social Affairs as well as other ministries, unfortunately, looks at such employee as individuals who do not deserve support.
Alasmari gives an example of a worker that was fired for no valid reason ten years ago and the Ministry of Labor still failed to resolve such a case, even though the law stipulates that such labor conflicts must be resolved with two months at most.
“In short, the negligence of the ministry concerned with labor disputes is a direct factor to the misery of such employee. It is known that when governmental departments functions properly such leads to the prosperity and welfare of the public,” he states.
Even though Alasmari was overjoyed about winning the award, he admits he was surprised that his blog was even nominated. He states, however, that it was never his intention to win a prize.
“The noble purpose of media is to contribute toward changing the lives of others. As a result, we as bloggers and media activists, must contribute to moving our community forward to prosperity.”
To read Alasmari’s blog visit: Holom Akhdar
For more information about the BOBs awards, visit: The BOBs
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