Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank IWMF for giving me the Courage in Journalism Award. Since Chinese authorities refused to issue me a passport, I am unable to receive this honor in person. But I can feel your encouragement and support even thousands of miles away.
I am not a journalist in the traditional sense. In the age of Internet, my books, blogs, radio shows, tweets and facebook posts as well as my photos, videos and media interviews have converged to a new mass medium - a personal news outlet. I first became aware of its power in March 2008.
Back then Tibet was under a brutal crackdown and the Chinese government had monopolized the dissemination of information. The authorities wanted to force the entire world to hear only one loud but twisted voice as they tried to bury the truth. I realized if we didn't record and spread truths as individuals, the tears and cries of an entire nation would disappear in the darkness. History would be rewritten, memories would be lost - and later generations would never learn the sacrifices made by their predecessors.
I was in Beijing at the time and, armed with old and new communication methods, established an information network covering the whole of Tibet. I collected facts from eyewitnesses - some of whom I knew, others I didn't - and posted them on my blog every day. I informed the world about what was going on in Tibet and became the only voice for Tibetans inside China. My blog received millions of page views and I almost single-handedly fought the powerful state propaganda machine.
I want to thank many friends here but I still can't reveal their names. During those difficult times, we supported and encouraged each other. In fact, we were the witnesses and recorders of an important historical moment from different locations. I remember the night before the protests, a young Tibetan from Lhasa told me, "Although we often talk about nationality and Tibet, ordinary people at the bottom of the social ladder usually walk at the forefront during times of crises - they are a lot braver." Later he was detained for more than 50 days for taking photographs of the protests.
Hackers hacked into my blog and my Skype account. I felt like fighting a war every day, facing unpredictable challenges on the battlefield. I persevered and escaped all the dangers, with the help of my supporters. With mounting threats from the authorities, I was prepared for my arrest. I packed up for prison and left the bag within easy reach.
Later I traveled to many places in Tibet, investigating, recording and videotaping. Along the way I was followed, stopped and questioned. Police restricted my access to ordinary Tibetans, turning me to an "untouchable." In Lhasa, a group of policemen broke into my mother's house and took me away. They searched the house and confiscated my files - and only finally let me go because of the ongoing Olympics in Beijing. What I had experienced is actually happening every day to Tibetans living under authoritarian rule.
Right now, inhumane and unfair treatments of talented and innocent people in Tibet are taking place. Many have been arrested, imprisoned or subject to other unimaginable persecution. That's why I will keep going as a personal news outlet - it's the weapon of the powerless. This weapon is made of words - it's ironically non-violent but also non-cooperative. Its power comes from our religion, traditions and culture. It also comes from our plight today, which is the source of my strength to fight back and the reason for never giving up. The support I receive - including yours - will always remain the source of my courage.
Thank you. Tashi delek!