Friday, August 22, 2008

Newspaper of the Week : Awoko

The wonderful thing about the Web is - as I have said too many times for my own good - the serendipitous nature of the beast. You rarely get taken from A to B without catching a glimpse of J or K. Take my nomination for Newspaper of the Week this week which is "Awoko" of Sierra Leone (slogan "The enemies of the people are likewise those who keep us in ignorance"). I found Awoko via my interest in breweries: I have a Google Watch setting which alerts me to any newspaper articles containing the word "brewery". The article in Awoko was an odd little thing about some poor chap who found a "foreign object" in his bottle of Maltina non-alcoholic beer and the consequent plea by the Sierra Leone Brewery that they "cherish their customers" and therefore the foreign object was nothing to do with them. Nowhere did anyone reveal what the "foreign object" was but it matters not as - in my opinion - anyone who drinks non-alcoholic beer deserved all they get.

Having been taken to the Awoko website, I decided to have a wander around and was captivated by the quirky collection of stories about everyday happenings in Sierra Leone. Much of my interest in obscure newspapers is the fact that there is no finer window into any society than its newspapers. Moving around the site is a little difficult as all the indexes seem to have stalled back in 2007. The only thing that seems to work for more recent articles is the "search" function and therefore you need to think of a word and input it and see what comes up (I, for some reason tried "kitchen" and the results were fascinating).

It is so easy to sit back in my comfortable retirement home and scoff at the somewhat curious use of the English language to describe the strange goings-on of the local people. As I was scoffing I did a Google search for Awoko and discovered it is more than a little oddball African newspaper. It attempts to provide an independent viewpoint in a country where press freedom is far from secured. According to Reporters Without Frontiers, Sierra Leone was ranked as having the 121st least-free press in the world. And according to an article in Afrol News, "Sierra Leonean police units .... raided the offices of the independent daily 'Awoko' newspaper, assaulting three journalists and confiscating a camera. The 'Awoko' journalists had tried to cover a police operation against illegal street vendors".

So I salute Awoko. It well deserves to be my Newspaper of the Week.

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