Black Out, Media Ban and Coup D’Etat in Mali

Phew, what a busy news day!

It all started yesterday around 7.30 PM when the lights flickered like they do before an unplanned “power off”, then complete darkness followed.

Apparently the black out affected the entire nation of Ghana and still GRIDCO cannot account for how this could happen again – this was the fourth country wide black out this year. I had just completed by dinner and this power outage sent me straight to bed. Unfortunately, it also sent three very sick people at the ill equipped Komfo Anokye hospital in the Ashanti region into eternal sleep as their life support machines went off and the generator was not kicking in.

In the mornings we listen to popular radio channel Joy FM, belonging to the Multimedia Group. I especially like their morning show in which government representatives are often called upon to explain to us why development projects ahve stalled, salaries not been payed, goals not met. Today they announced that Ghana’s government had placed a ban on the Multimedia group, not allowing them to government press conferences and not granting interviews anymore. The deputy Information minister James Agyenim Boateng was reported to have said:

“We’ll find other platforms to carry out our messages. Multimedia journalists are not invited to cover state events”

This might sound very strange for a government to do during an election year, especially since the Multimedia Group is so popular. However on Twitter far from everybody was worried or surprised:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/nautyinaccra/status/182760268399521792″]

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/nii_ayertey/status/182794155846672385″]

Kojo Pumpuni Asante from the Center for Democratic Development was more concerned and suggested the move to ban a media house from state events was unconstitutional and a threat to press freedom,

“Chapter Five of the constitution on the Bill of Rights is very clear: it guarantees the freedom of the press. Chapter Six, on the Directive of State Policy, imposes an obligation on the executive and all arms of government to ensure that we have a democratic state. Article 21 of the constitution talks about our Right to Information, Chapter 12 of the constitution guarantees the independence of the media.”

In the evening, the government issued a clarifying statement outlining their grievances and events leading up to the decision. Also the statement ended on a hopeful and peace seeking note:

“Government remains committed to press freedom and would ensure that these freedoms are guaranteed at all times. In this regard, the Ministry of Information has accepted a request by the management of Multimedia for a meeting”

Follow the continuing discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #MultimediaBan

Finally, Mali, a West African country that has been a stable democracy for 20 years however with a growing conflict in its northern provinces, had its military take control of the country in a coup d’etat.

A foreign researcher in Mali, Bruce Whitehouse shares on his blog, a detailed and personal account of this tumultuous day starting at 7.30 am. The last section reads:

8:00 p.m.: Africable TV airs a pre-recorded interview with Capt. Amadou Sanogo, leader of the CNRDR. The journalist asks him, what assurance can you offer that you won’t organize fraudulent elections and cling to power yourself? Sanogo responds by saying he is an honest, sincere man who knows what he wants. At several points his remarks elicit applause from the soldiers gathered around him. He reiterates his goal to preserve Malian national unity. I notice he wears a US Marines eagle, globe and anchor pin on his fatigues: has he undergone USMC training at some point?

Asked what will become of overthrown president Touré, Sanogo replies in a roundabout way that the Malian people “know who is who, and who did what,” and that everyone must answer for what they have done. The final question concerns whether Sanogo is being manipulated by “certain members of the political class”–to this, Sanogo responds that he is so apolitical, he has never voted in his life.

Living in West Africa is most days not at all eventful, but rather relaxing, intriguing and fun. Today was a day when I instead felt drained and saddened by what seems to be steps backwards instead of the much awaited leap ahead.