Sunday, 15 December 2013

Liberia - The Final Word

I've been blogging about Liberia for over two months - probably my longest time ever on one place, but I have been incredibly busy with real-life travel during this period.  Having done no less than 12 trips in 7 different countries, it's surprising I found time to do my research and blog at all!

It's been a great learning experience - not only about Liberia, but about West Africa and I've read lots of books and watched several movies set in or somehow connected to Liberia.  I learned about the history of Liberia and explored three of the most popular questions about Liberia on online search engines.  I learned about the importance of masks in West Africa and I read about Graham Greene's walk through Liberia in the 1930's.  I learned about international measuring systems and I learned how to cook palava, a popular West African dish.  I also blogged about ten random facts that I learned about Liberia. 

Kolahun by ChrysteleC
As usual, even with a long period of research, there were topics that I would have liked to explore further, but didn't have enough time.  If you wish to continue researching into Liberia, I would suggest the following topic areas:

- The difference between freedom and liberation
- Mangroves
- African airlines
- Polygamy
- FGM (ie. female genital mutilation)
- the flags of Liberian counties
- the role of the Blacksmith in traditional African ceremonies
- Firestone's presence in Liberia

The Final Word on Press Freedom

Monrovia Market by ChrysteleC
Blogging about Liberia, which was symbolically named after the concept of liberation, has made me think about the question - How do we measure how free/liberated a country is?

There are several (predominantly Western) indices which attempt to define how 'free' a country is.  One of the most well-known indices is The Press Freedom Index - which is compiled by the French-based Reporters without borders (Reporters Sans Frontières). 

Reporters without borders is a non-profit organisation which monitors attacks on press freedom worldwide.  Each year they publish the Press Freedom Index, which tries to measure press freedom of speech around the world.  70 journalists were killed in 2013, the highest number being 10 in Syria, followed by 8 each in India and the Philippines. 

Lofa by ChrysteleC
In 2013, Eritrea came bottom of the list of countries ranked by the Press Freedom Index, as they had done in 2012, when I was blogging about this country.  North Korea frequently takes second-last place, when it comes to press freedom.  Liberia came 97th on the list of 173 countries and is considered to be in a 'satisfactory' situation. 

The West African country with the best record is, perhaps not surprisingly, Cape Verde - which came 25th on the list, ahead of both the UK and the US.  Gambia has the lowest ranking of all West African countries, coming 152nd and is considered to be in a 'difficult situation'.  Although it's only one way of measuring 'freedom', I think the importance of independent reporting is a good indicator of how comfortable a government feels with internal criticism. 

There are other indices, which attempt to measure freedom and I had a lot of fun playing around with Freedom Meta-Index - this allows you to define your own criteria, eg. 'freedom of expression' and 'drugs rights', to see how free different countries are. 

The Music

I must admit, I didn't spend a lot of time listening to Liberian music - Liberia doesn't seem to have the 'big stars' that exist elsewhere in West Africa, although I could sense that music is as important to Liberia, as to any other nation in the region. 

I did quite like a musician called Shadow and he seems to be very popular with Liberians, so I'm going to leave you with one of his latest videos, from YouTube.

Image credits:

There are a limited number of photographers who have shared images on Flickr which were taken in Liberia but, nevertheless, I've managed to find some really beautiful images to illustrate my blog posts. 

For this final blog post I wanted to highlight the work of a relatively new member of the Flickr community, ChrysteleC - who joined Flickr in 2013, although I think the photos were taken in 2006.  You can see more of ChrysteleC's work on her photo stream.  Thanks ChrysteleC for sharing these images with us, using the Creative Commons License. 

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