Global City

Covering the Underground LGBTQ Community in Liberia

Online platform journalRAGE faces roadblocks as founder Gboko Stewart strives to secure funding

A photo of Gboko Stewart.

Gboko Stewart is a human rights journalist who founded journalRAGE, a news platform dedicated to covering the underground LGBTQ community in Liberia. The aim of journalRAGE is to combat violent homophobia by giving a voice to those in this community.

In the oldest independent African 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 societal stigma attached to being [LGBTQ] in Liberia deters victims from reporting violence and discrimination.”

Stewart tasked himself with advocating against the social stigma while shedding light on the issues surrounding the underrepresented LGBTQ community in Liberia, for which, he said, there is a need for constant access to technological assistance.

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

The idea to start the publication came to him after he read an article in 2019, where the reporter condemned two women who were seen kissing in public. After reading the biased writing in the article, Stewart felt compelled to buy a $120 laptop with the motivation to uncover the homophobia prevalent in his country.

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

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

In February 2020, a Liberian woman disowned her son for being gay, refusing to pay his high school tuition. Stewart took initiative by publishing a piece in JournalRAGE in order to raise money for the boy to graduate. After the story was published, an unnamed donor paid the $153 required for the boy to finish his last two semesters.

In October that same year, Stewart exposed an ex-soldier named Cheeseman Cole who allegedly assaulted over 27 men suspected of being gay. His reporting assisted authorities in tracing the disappearances of the men to Cole, which ultimately led to his arrest. According to Stewart, although Cole was only briefly arrested and granted bail, he has since refrained from assaulting suspected gay men.

After a few years of continuous crashes and maintenance, Stewart’s personal laptop lost functionality in November 2021. Currently, Stewart needs to raise enough funds to be able to purchase a used laptop, a Nikon camera, an internet router and six months of internet subscription. This equipment will help him keep journalRAGE running.

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

Gboko Stewart is still looking for donations and other support for journalRAGE.

GoFundMe Campaign: Help journalRage, LGBTQ publication in Liberia