NewLiberian.com to be clearing house for human rights news for Liberian diaspora.
For Immediate Release: December 31, 2007
Julia Goldberg, Editor
Phone: 505-988-5541 x215
editor (at) sfreporter.com
Dave Maass, SFR staff writer
Phone: 505-988-5541 x219
davem (at) sfreporter.com
In December, the Santa Fe Reporter organized a two-day seminar for international students of United World College and Vassar College to learn about citizen journalism, news-blogging and the status of Liberian refugees scattered throughout the world.
Coordinated by staff writer Dave Maass and Semantics King Jr., a 2006 World Press Institute Fellow and Liberian asylum seeker living in Minnesota, the team launched the web site NewLiberian.com, an online Liberian news magazine that reports on human rights, health and politics of Liberia for its people, both domestic and in the diaspora.
The West African country of Liberia was established as a colony for freed American slaves in 1822 and became an autonomous nation in 1847. Civil war broke out in 1989 with rebel forces led by Charles Taylor, an Americo-Liberian, who assumed the presidency in 1987. A second civil war erupted in 1999 and between the two wars an estimated 200,000 were killed and at least 340,000 displaced before Taylor accepted asylum in Nigeria. He’s currently being tried by a war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Created with primarily open-source software, the WordPress-based blog is designed to look like a newspaper, often using publicly available images from WikiCommons. If successful, Maass and King hope it will serve as a model for other displaced and under-developed communities, particularly those battling press censorship with limited funds.
Participants in the December 20-21 event included Simbarashe Musasa (UWC – Zimbabwe), Motema Letlatsa (UWC – Lesotho) and Dorien Seto (Vassar – US/India). Students were involved in syndicating and publicizing the site, writing Liberia-policy questionnaires to US presidential candidates, and designing press passes for NewLiberian.com’s correspondents in the US, Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia.
NewLiberian.com grew from The Vision, a monthly newspaper by Liberian refugees for Liberian refugees at the Buduburam camp, 30 kilometers outside Accra, Ghana. In August 2005, through a project supported by Ottawa-based Journalists for Human Rights, The Vision launched TheVisionOnline.net. Since then, The Vision received accolades from groups such as Amnesty International. As opposed to the local Buduburam nature of The Vision, however, New Liberian aims to serve all Liberians, particularly those in exile.