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|New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Kilode?!: 10:15pm On Nov 19, 2011|
From Safety of New York, Reporting on Distant Home
Published: November 19, 2011
WHEN news breaks in Nigeria, Omoyele Sowore is there.
His Web news operation was the first to publish a photo of the Nigeria-born “underwear bomber” arrested in December 2009, and when a suicide bombing this summer shook a United Nations building in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, he was the first to publish on-the-ground reports and photos. During the presidential election in Nigeria in April, he published real-time photos, videos and reports from the field, exposing instances of ballot rigging, and attracting over eight million page views in one month.
Mr. Sowore, 40, is not based in Abuja, Lagos or anywhere nearby, but in a cluttered seventh-floor office on a gritty stretch of West 29th Street in Manhattan. Armed with a laptop and a server, he has established his Web site, Sahara Reporters, as a major player in the Nigerian press, despite being 5,000 miles away.
And he is only one of a growing number of New York-based journalists in exile taking advantage of cheap and easy Web-publishing technology, and the growing access in the developing world to the Web, to report with impunity from afar.
A recent report from the Committee to Protect Journalists, an organization devoted to promoting press freedom, counted at least 649 journalists from around the world forced into exile over the past decade, with 91 percent unable to return home, and only 22 percent able to work in their profession. These include reporters from dictatorships like Cuba, but also from places like Russia and Mexico — democracies where working as a truth-seeking reporter can be a dangerous proposition.
In Nigeria, “now that we have, so to speak, democracy, you would expect the media to be more vibrant, but the opposite is the case,” Mr. Sowore said in an interview.
“It is not so much a problem of freedom of speech,” he said, “but freedom after speech. You can say a lot of things in Nigeria, but the question is: Will you still be a free person? Will you still be alive after you freely express yourself?”
MR. SOWORE grew up in a small village on the Niger River Delta, where, he said, corrupt government officials reaped the benefits of the region’s oil-rich land while doing little to improve the lives of its impoverished residents. That experience impelled him to become a leader of antigovernment activists while a student at the University of Lagos, a position that he said resulted in his being harassed, abducted and ultimately tortured at the hands of the pro-government police.
In 1999, he attended a peace conference at American University in Washington. Fellow activists recommended he seek help in the United States for the psychological aftereffects of torture, and one colleague put him in touch with the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, an initiative that helps victims rebuild their physical and mental health. He had planned to go back to Nigeria, but doctors advised, for his mental health, against an immediate return. Instead, he sought political asylum in the United States and enrolled as a graduate student in public administration at Columbia University. Frustrated by his distance from his homeland, he soon realized that his re-entry into Nigerian political activism could come online.
“I have always been a lover of the media,” Mr. Sowore said, reminiscing about a comparatively robust news landscape when a military junta led Nigeria from 1983 to 1998. “These guys then were really daring. They would publish what they wanted, and weren’t afraid of the military. The newspapers just refused to allow themselves to be proscribed.”
IN 2004, Mr. Sowore and Jonathan Elendu, a fellow Nigerian exile based in Michigan, created an online publication called Elendu Reports. Mostly, they focused on the questionable activities abroad of Nigerian politicians, publishing photographs of extravagant houses and luxury car collections allegedly bought with the spoils of corruption, and following paper trails to offshore accounts.
Back home, their exposés ignited widespread outrage. The domestic press may have been too intimidated to report on the rampant corruption, but by publishing the articles online from a base here, Mr. Sowore and Mr. Elendu were free of government-sponsored violence.
Meanwhile, rapidly spreading Internet access in Nigeria — the World Bank estimates Nigeria had nearly 44 million Internet users in 2009, up from fewer than one million in 2003 — helped them reach enough people that officials had no choice but to address the ensuing uproar. In several cases, the articles led to the arrests of prominent politicians.
“It just got bigger and bigger as we went along,” Mr. Sowore said. “People back in Nigeria thought we had some sort of wizardry, always finding these stories, but we were just following the money, and no one was able to stop us.”
Mr. Sowore said he had a falling out with Mr. Elendu in 2006. (Mr. Elendu could not be reached for comment.) Mr. Elendu continued with his site, but Mr. Sowore soon started Sahara Reporters, named less for geography than to symbolize his desire to “kick up a storm across Nigeria,” from the basement of his home in Englewood, N.J. Using a network of contacts in the United States and in Nigeria, he continued to report on corruption but also expanded into breaking news.
Soon, reporters based in Lagos began to send him controversial dispatches that their own editors refused to print. Mr. Sowore is happy to publish them, shielding the reporters’ names when necessary for their protection.
“Our reporters have a layer of protection they can’t have in Nigeria, where the police can arrest you and harass you,” Mr. Sowore said. “They can’t bomb our offices. They can’t get the police to shut us down.”
In 2008, with financial support from the Ford Foundation and the Global Information Network, an independent, nonprofit organization focused on news from the developing world, Mr. Sowore moved his operation to Manhattan, although he also works from his home, his car, coffee shops or wherever he happens to be when a story breaks across the Atlantic. His workday often begins at midnight New York time, when Nigeria wakes up and he starts getting tips by phone and e-mail.
IN contrast to Mr. Sowore, “most journalists are unable to contribute from exile,” said Lonnie Isabel, director of the International Reporting Program at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.
“It’s an enormously difficult transition,” he said. “There are language skills to learn, new technologies to deal with and many other barriers.”
To bolster the in absentia press corps, Mr. Isabel helped found CUNY’s International Journalist in Residence Program, a joint initiative with the Committee to Protect Journalists that gives one international reporter each year full access to the journalism school’s resources.
The school’s 2010 resident was Sonali Samarasinghe, a Sri Lankan journalist whose husband, also a journalist and an outspoken critic of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was assassinated in 2009. Ms. Samarasinghe immediately fled after she received death threats.
Classes in digital technology and entrepreneurial journalism helped her prepare for the recent start of her own Web site, Lanka Standard. In its first three months, it had 65,000 visitors, she said, many of them from within Sri Lanka.
CUNY’s newest journalist in residence is Agnes Taile, 31, a reporter from Cameroon who spent several years writing about corruption and human rights abuses in the northern region of her country before death threats and run-ins with the police led her to leave in 2009. This year she began Le Septentrion Info, a French-language Web site dedicated to news from that under-covered region. She hopes to soon expand the site and add an English version.
Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, another alumnus of the CUNY program, worked for 10 years as a reporter and editor in Iran and was among the first journalists there to blog. In 2004 he was arrested and held in solitary confinement for two months, until he agreed to write a public confession saying he was a spy. In 2006 he left the country, ultimately landing in Brooklyn.
Mr. Mirebrahimi’s site, Iran dar Jahan (Iran in the World), features some original reporting, but its primary mission is to translate international news reports about Iran into Persian, so that Iranian readers can get a sense of what the world press has to say about their country. Iran had 28 million Web users as of 2009, according to the World Bank, the most in the Middle East. And while the government blocks access to Iran dar Jahan, many Iranians are adept at using proxy servers to gain access to banned sites. Mr. Mirebrahimi, who was sentenced in absentia by an Iranian court to two years in prison and 84 lashes, said his site had about 70,000 visitors a month.
“It would be impossible to do this kind of work inside Iran,” he said. “New York has been a great place to work from, because there are so many resources here and because the community is so welcoming to immigrants from all over the world.”
Of course, the ultimate dream for each of these far-flung publishers is to set off enough political change back home that exiles like themselves will one day be safe to return.
“I certainly hope to be publishing Sahara Reporters in Nigeria someday,” Mr. Sowore said. “Part of what we are doing now is fighting for a space to be able to do this legitimately, building it to the point where it will be useless to fight us.”
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Kilode?!: 10:20pm On Nov 19, 2011|
Omoyele Sowore I'm proud of you jare. . .keep on pushing.
". . .we are building it to the point where it will be useless to fight us.” -Sowore
Yes. .One day. . . the power will shift. . lagbara 'eledua
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by ~Bluetooth: 10:32pm On Nov 19, 2011|
That is jonathan's number one enemy. . .keep it up sowore !
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Kilode?!: 11:04pm On Nov 19, 2011|
The looters of Nigeria hate him. We don't expect less from them, awon enemies of development.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Eko Ile: 11:14pm On Nov 19, 2011|
Keep fighting brother, may the force be with you.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Areosapien(f): 11:16pm On Nov 19, 2011|
“It is not so much a problem of freedom of speech,” he said, “but freedom after speech.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Rhino.5dm: 11:17pm On Nov 19, 2011|
Godbless you Mr. Sowore
such was an inspiration from a selfless brother.
Sahara Reporters,the voice to the voiceless and the all seeing EYE for the blinded.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Kilode?!: 11:49pm On Nov 19, 2011|
Too many [b]blind[/b]sided folks in these parts. If not for and his Saharareporters, we will be at the mercy of Tribune "investigashiooon" journalists
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by obowunmi(m): 11:56pm On Nov 19, 2011|
Awesome! He's a great role model. But sir, honorable sir, not everything you report is true. But I love your work. Keep it up.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Beaf: 12:15am On Nov 20, 2011|
I would like to grace this page with some Sahara Reporters fairytale "news." Sahara Reporters? Best for lies, best for fake news.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Kilode?!: 12:24am On Nov 20, 2011|
You know you want people like Sowore to succeed, he will probably save your Bottom from these visionless looters one day.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Afro_Blue(m): 12:29am On Nov 20, 2011|
Fresh in the memory banks ,
7 released after arrests in Nigeria newspaper raid
JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press
Updated 12:35 p.m., Thursday, October 13, 2011
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/7-released-after-arrests-in-Nigeria-newspaper-raid-2216801.php#ixzz1eCGNpxAb
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/7-released-after-arrests-in-Nigeria-newspaper-raid-2216801.php#ixzz1eCGuzNmd
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian journalist said Thursday police threatened him with sedition charges over a story he wrote about presidential influencing in the oil-rich nation, as he and six newspaper colleagues were released from custody.
Yusuf Alli of The Nation newspaper said detectives also claimed he'd face forgery and defamation charges for his Oct. 4 story alleging former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a letter to current leader Goodluck Jonathan to fire government officials.
Alli said he refused to admit anything and was released after about two days in custody with an assurance he wouldn't face criminal charges.
"No matter what the pressure, I won't disclose my source," Alli told The Associated Press. "I stood my ground that the letter was not forged and I did cross-check my facts before I published."
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Beaf: 12:52am On Nov 20, 2011|
You can be certain that I don't.
I might deslike Tinubu intensely, but the Nation is generally good quality if you excuse the partisan stuff, I quote them all the time and will continue to do so. Sahara Reporters on the other hand, is just foul smelling trash.
A liar is next to a thief and Sahara Reporters is an organisation that trades in lies.
That pic and the story at the end of the link, speak a thousand and one ugly words.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Kilode?!: 1:14am On Nov 20, 2011|
Saharareporters is not anywhere close to the rash adjectives you used, agreed, they are not perfect but I'll take them over the cowardly written trash I read everyday in the papers.
I miss 234next, and I don't mind partisan The nation ( at least they are not hiding it)
But the rest are just praise singers and bootlickers. We need more like Saharareporters.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Beaf: 1:30am On Nov 20, 2011|
For me, I am very happy with serious papers like the Vanguard, Guardian and Nation. There is no need for the tabloid style trashiness that Sahara Reporters have sprung on the nation.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by obowunmi(m): 1:36am On Nov 20, 2011|
Let's give the guy some credit, But the truth remains, not everything he publishes is true.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Kilode?!: 1:46am On Nov 20, 2011|
There is a great need for fearless investigative reports in Nigeria. Saharareporters, despite their little faults represent that
Saharareporters is not a tabloid publishing birthdays, chieftaincy titles and celebrity divorces. Our journalists should be ready to step on toes, that's a major part of the career they chose.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Beaf: 1:50am On Nov 20, 2011|
Bruv, telling lies is not a little fault, in fact its like stealing.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by CyberG: 2:03am On Nov 20, 2011|
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Kilode?!: 2:07am On Nov 20, 2011|
Yes news reporters don't always get things right. I'm not going to crucify them for that, especially if they admit and retract.
BTW we know who the thieves and looters are, and those who are wide awake can see their cheerleaders in the news business.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by stormm: 7:28am On Nov 20, 2011|
Trust Beaf . No be you dey publish the bolded? Money from Delta State govt sustain Vanguard joor! Of course, I'm not trying to rubbish the efforts of that 'Sad Sam'
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by ekt_bear: 8:02am On Nov 20, 2011|
Game (NYT) recognizes game (SR).
Kudos to SR.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by oyb(m): 8:04am On Nov 20, 2011|
viva next and SR
celebrated by professionals, loathed by political thugs, bootlickers and sycophants
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by reindeer: 11:08am On Nov 20, 2011|
Spot on! If it weren't for SR, we'll probably still be hearing that yaradua is working out on a threadmill while Jonathan will be serving Turai coffee every morning.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Johnpaul2k2(m): 11:29am On Nov 20, 2011|
Beaf:beaf, please find solid place in your heart to forgive sahara 'bigots' reporters
;Dyou too like this pic
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Omo_Tier1(m): 11:42am On Nov 20, 2011|
For the likes of beaf, mediocrity is a life style, hence the reason He can not stand SR! For any foreign based investigative journalist/publisher, there is bound to be some faultlines in their reportage. Reading through the lines in that article, you would realize that SR relies on Nigerian journalist based here for vast of the stories/report published, hence some of her reports may not be 100% true.
Those who hate SR hates progress and do not wish Nigeria well!
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by slap1(m): 11:44am On Nov 20, 2011|
So we should all switch over to the Sahara desert because NY Times said so?
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Omo_Tier1(m): 11:52am On Nov 20, 2011|
slap1:Where in the article did NYT ask you to switch over to SR?, **deserving SLAP x 2 not SLAP x1**
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Afro_Blue(m): 12:03pm On Nov 20, 2011|
well done op
Omoyele Sowore uses a network of people to provide news online to Nigerians.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by ifebosco: 12:05pm On Nov 20, 2011|
the fear of sahara reporters is the beging of wisdom Omoyele Sowore carry go sh
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Pennywise(m): 12:10pm On Nov 20, 2011|
All the papers mentioned are guilty of varying degrees of censorship and partisanship. They are owned by men with visible and sometimes invisible business interests, friends of politicians, politicians. Sometimes its not even the proprietors but corrupt editors who have been compromised by Government. If they have not been induced or compromised its the fear of being murdered by 'unknown persons' that determines what is published and what is not. The only reason I buy these 'terrestrial papers' sometimes is b/c of advertorials.
To a lot of Nigerian politicians today, the fear of Sahara Reporters and 234next is the beginning of wisdom. There is nothing we are going to say on NL that is going to take away from that.
What the owners of these websites need is encouragement and not anonymous distraction. From me, well done boys. Keep up with the good job.
|Re: New York Times Profiles Saharareporters! by Pennywise(m): 12:26pm On Nov 20, 2011|
What a lot of pple dont know is that there is a network of 'journalist pools' across the country. It is from these pools that papers get most of the reports that they publish. These 'pools' are manned by persons who are frequently inadequately trained and mostly underpaid. They have their own sanction for erring members.
If I get terribly pissed with beaf for instance and I decide to douse him with petrol at Onikan stadium in the middle of the afternoon with 100 pple watching (half of them journalists), nothing will be said in the media if the price is right.
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