Social critic Liu Xiaobo (
The former Pekjing University teacher, who was detained and released by authorities last week, was honored by the international organization Reporters Without Borders after being selected by an international jury.
"Liu is determined that the Chinese media should become a counterweight to the all-powerful Chinese Communist Party," the group said.
"He is tirelessly fighting for the universal ideal of press freedom, calling for the release of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents and posting articles on the Internet and in Hong Kong and diaspora newspapers.
"For all this he risks being re-arrested at any moment."
Liu spent two years in prison after publicly defending the student-led democracy movement in June 1989.
He was also sentenced to three years of reeducation through labor in 1996 for questioning the role of the communist party.
In May this year, the police cut his Internet connection and his phone line after he wrote an essay criticizing the use of the charge of "subversion" against journalists and dissidents.
Liu, 49, lives in Beijing. The authorities systematically refuse to give him a passport.
He was not immediately available for comment but said last week after his most recent detention that authorities had warned him he had gone too far and to cease writing any more articles critical of the government and the party.
Shortlisted for the prize was Cheng Yizhong (
He was arrested and held in secret for five months this year. Since his release in August, he has been under house arrest and banned from working as a journalist.
Other awards went to Hafnaoui Ghoul of the Algerian daily El Youm for showing devotion to freedom of information.
He was jailed for six months this year for alleged libel after exposing corruption and abuses by local officials.
The Mexican weekly Zeta won the award for media outlet exemplifying the battle for the right to inform after a series of investigative reports that has cost the lives of three of its reporters.