Power Outages Cripple Businesses Including Public Agenda, Newspaper Reports on the Issue

Mar 172009

Since the beginning of the year, several communities in Accra have been experiencing major power outages as well as water shortages. What it means is that the power will go out for hours, crippling some businesses, like Public Agenda. When the power's out we sit around and talk politics and journalism; some people use it as a time to take a walk or go get the standard lunch -- rice and some sort of meat or fish in a sauce made with plenty of palm oil or, if it's Wednesday, fufu with meat or fish (it's heavier food and it keeps the reporters full on production nights).

   Public Agenda comes out every Friday and Monday.

   Well, I suggested that the senior reporter write about the power outages and the government's lack of communication with the public about what's causing the outages and what is being done to resolve the issue. The week he wrote the editorial, the editor-in-chief, Amos Safo, was away at a manager's training course. Well, the story ran on a Friday. The following Monday, another reporter went to the electric company to do a follow-up story and was promptly kicked out of the office and told not to come back, but not before the head of the office said the agency will no longer advertise with the newspaper and demanded that the person who wrote the editorial come in person to the office.

   When all this happened, one of the paper's advertising sales people was also in the electricity office and begged the agency not to pull any ads. He at old the agency the name of the reporter who had penned the editorial. Everyone in the newsroom was up in arms and it prompted a rather hushed debate on whether a paper has the right to write what it wants and the right to challenge the government in its performance and policies. Luckily, most reporters agreed that it's their job to write about what people are talking about and to opine on the government's performance.