Tag Archives: journalism

Ask Obama Your Questions

A group of journalists have launched a site called Ask the President, in which users can upload videos of their questions and vote on the ones they’d like to see asked.

The most popular ones will ostensibly then be given to a journalist who will attend press conferences and ask the appropriate ones if given the opportunity. Sounds like an interesting way to make press conferences a little more democratic, and a little less insular than they’ve been in the past.

Check it out here.

How Andrew Berends Escaped Nigerian Prison

The questionable detention by the Nigerian government, and subsequent release, of documentary filmmaker Andrew Berends ’94 (left) is featured in today’s NY Times.

Berends made it out of the harrowing 10-day situation with the help of his friend and fellow filmmaker Aaron Soffin (right), who organized a large network of filmmakers, journalists, and politicians which came to include Mariane Pearl and Senator Hillary Clinton, to pressure the Nigerian government to release Berends:

Although he was never formally accused of a crime, Mr. Berends, 36, was held in Nigeria without food and water for 30 hours (fearful of exposing his sources, he managed to swallow the SIM card from his cellphone that carried their names and numbers). He managed brief phone conversations with Mr. Soffin. “I got the message from him that everything possible was being done,” Mr. Berends said this past Friday. “Knowing it was happening was very comforting.”

Soffin is now headed to Rwanda to make a documentary about that country’s genocide. Unflappable!

Wes alumnus being detained in Nigeria [u]

Andrew Berends ’94, a Wes alumnus and documentary filmmaker, is being questionably detained by Nigerian authorities.

Berends was provisionally released into the custody of the U.S. Embassy over the weekend and was expected to be cleared today, but new reports claim that Berends has been re-detained and is—again—in the custody of the Nigerian State Security Services.

The former Film major was filming a documentary about the ongoing violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region when he was arrested, along with his translator, and held without water, food, sleep, or a lawyer for 36 hours. Nigerian police, the army, and the Nigerian State Security Services interrogated him, accusing him of spying.

The U.S. State Department and various U.S. senators have intervened, but as today’s continuing detention makes clear, more help is needed. Check out Help Andy, a blog set up to build media awareness about, and solicit help for, Andy’s plight.

Calls to your local senators, as well as calls to the New York Senate delegation (Berends is a New Yorker) are encouraged. For more information, check out the New York Times report on Berends.

[Thanks to Wesleying friend Ed McKeon for the tip.]

2008-09-09 4:57 PM: According to the Help Andy blog, Berends is still being detained without charges:

It’s Tuesday morning now, and this is the 10th day since Andrew’s arrest arrest and the seizure of his passport and belongings. Nothing has changed. The Nigeria Security Services still have his passport. They have given no indication of when he will be free to go or if he will be charged with any crime.

2008-09-10 2:34 AM: The Help Andy blog reports that Berends’ ordeal is now over, and he’ll be arriving back in the United States soon:

We would like to express our sincerest thanks and gratitude to all those who helped in the release of Andrew Berends from Nigerian custody. Andy has now left Nigeria and will return to the United States shortly.