Thursday, September 20, 2012

Heading out the door

There has been a spate of articles on Guinea in the international press over the past two weeks. Notably, the New York Times picked up the story of recent rumblings in Conakry, linking it with unrest in Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon and Togo. The article connects back to an earlier post of mine in which I focus on the unpredictability of the situation here - teetering on the edge of collapse, yet within spitting distance of a solid path toward consolidating its democracy. Clearly, the Times is focusing on the negatives in this article, which I found a little too pessimistic (although not wholly unrealistic either).

This points, however, to an issue I was discussing recently with a Guinean writer friend. The international press is fundamentally sensationalist - we know what makes news sell. Thus, coverage is restricted to high-level political developments (postponing of elections), public health emergencies (the cholera outbreak) and unrest (protests and politically-motivated violence) and the occasional piece on the crisis in the mining sector (the government has been making it increasingly difficult for mining companies to operate in Guinea). While I enjoy what I consider to be a respectable amount of objectivity from sources such as Reuters, AP and AFP, their articles are mostly restricted to these topics and tend to paint broad strokes instead of developing deep analysis. Unfortunately, online Guinean news improves little on the level of analysis. Some Guinean websites do, however, have more articles on local issues. Even if the political allegiances of the authors clearly shine through much of the prose, they are valuable additional sources of information. Another source of I have been using is Twitter, although the same problem exists – there are few reliable (in terms of trustworthiness and frequency) sources of news. Suffice to say that following local events, such as recent protests, is best done in person or on the phone with local contacts.
I’ve also begun delving into the local written press, which, how shall I put it? Could be richer. There are no daily newspapers in Guinea, but there are several that publish on a weekly basis. A different paper comes out each day between Monday and Thursday. According to co-workers and friends, these papers vary considerably in reliability. I’ll write more here about these newspapers as I get to know them.

More news on the most recent round of protests, including those over the infamous film which has spawned so much unrest across the world, to come next week, so check back in a few days. Also look for some photos which I hope to take on my short trip! I am headed up country for the first time this weekend, which will be a nice break from the daily grind of Conakry. Hopefully I’ll be healthy on the road - I’m also just getting over my latest bout of illness, in other words I’m feeling like a PCV again! I believe this is largely due to my location in the capital, which allows me an unusual level of dietary control for a volunteer. In short, I was proud of my long streak with no health problems, but feeling very humbled at the moment. This time I’m on metronidazole (brand name Flagyl in the States) for three pills a daily over ten days. Oh, Guinea!

Until next week, I leave you with a photo taken last night here in Conakry: