Liberia: Online platform JournalRAGE faces hurdles as founder Gboko Stewart struggles to secure funding

Monrovia — Gboko Stewart is a human rights journalist who founded journalRAGE, a news platform dedicated to covering the underground LGBTQ community in Liberia. The objective of journalRAGE is to fight against violent homophobia by giving voice to members of this community.

In Africa’s oldest independent nation, sexual acts between members of the same sex are still criminalized, creating a dangerous environment for those who identify as LGBTQ. According to the Human Dignity Trust, “the social stigma attached to being [LGBTQ] in Liberia deters victims from reporting violence and discrimination”.

Stewart took on the task of combating social stigma while shedding light on issues surrounding the underrepresented LGBTQ community in Liberia, for whom, he said, there is a need for constant access to assistance. technological.

Stewart believes journalRAGE provides a trusted space for the community to feel represented and that its work is needed to deter threats to the LGBTQ community.

The idea to launch the publication came to him after reading an article in 2019, where the journalist condemned two women who had been seen kissing in public. After reading the article’s biased writing, Stewart felt compelled to buy a $120 laptop with the motivation to uncover the prevalent homophobia in his country.

Stewart got in touch with Ken Harper, professor of graphic arts at Syracuse University, and learned the basics of running an online publication. The anger he felt at seeing a multitude of homophobic stories circulating in his city, earned him the name: journalRAGE.

“It took my willpower to do something about it,” Stewart said. “[Now] the community has a platform where all issues affecting the LGBTQ community in Liberia can be reported. »

In February 2020, a Liberian woman disowned her son because he was gay, refusing to pay his high school tuition. Stewart took the initiative by publishing an article in JournalRAGE to raise funds for the boy to graduate. After the story was published, an anonymous donor paid the $153 needed for the boy to complete his final two semesters.

In October of that year, Stewart exposed an ex-soldier named Cheeseman Cole who allegedly assaulted more than 27 men suspected of being gay. His reporting helped authorities trace the men’s disappearances back to Cole, which ultimately led to his arrest. According to Stewart, although Cole was only briefly arrested and released on bail, he has since refrained from assaulting suspected homosexuals.

After a few years of continuous breakdowns and maintenance, Stewart’s personal laptop computer lost functionality in November 2021. Currently, Stewart needs to raise enough funds to be able to buy a used laptop computer, a Nikon camera, a router Internet and six months Internet subscription. This gear will help him run journalRAGE.

Stewart said when stories of marginalized populations circulate, the government acts more willingly. “[We need] anything that helps in any way bring more visibility to what we do,” Stewart said. “This goes a long way in giving a voice to the LGBTQ community and helping our platform become more viable.

Gboko Stewart is always looking for donations and other support for the RAGE journal.

Stephen V. Lee