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Cablegate: Government Loosens Control of State Media

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DE RUEHAB #0104 0421754
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY AD5AA712 MSI5294-695)
R 111754Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4002
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0871
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS ABIDJAN 000104

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SENSITIVE
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C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION
STATE FOR AF/W-EPLUMB AND INR/AA-BGRAVES, PARIS FOR AFRICA
WATCHER RKANEDA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PROP KDEM IV
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT LOOSENS CONTROL OF STATE MEDIA


1. (SBU) Summary. President Gbagbo nominated new Boards of
Directors for the state newspaper and radio and television
network on January 23. The respective Boards on January 28
elected Viviane Zunon Kipre as Chairperson for the
organization that publishes the newspaper and Honore Koffi
Guie as Chairperson for the radio/television network.
Gbagbo's decision to create new Boards could be perceived as
a response to calls in June 2007 and January 2008 by the
Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) Permanent Consultation
Framework for greater opening of the state media to all
political actors. End Summary.

2. (U) President Laurent Gbagbo signed a decree on January
23, 2008 nominating new Boards of Directors for the
organization (Societe Nouvelle de Presse et d'Edition de Cote
d'Ivoire - SNEPCI) that publishes the government's daily
newspaper "Fraternite Matin" and the national radio and
television network (Radio Diffusion Television Ivoirienne -
RTI). The Board of Directors of SNEPCI elected Viviane Zunon
Kipre as Chairperson on January 28 and RTI's Board elected
Honore Koffi Guie as its Chairperson the same day. The
chairperson positions had been vacant since November 2006
when President Gbagbo dismissed the Board of Directors and
appointed two acting Directors who were allied to his
Ivoirian Popular Front (Front Populaire Ivoirien - FPI)
political party.

3. (U) Zunon Kipre is a former Director General of the
Ivoirian Social Security fund (Caisse Nationale de Prevoyance
Sociale - CNPS). Guie is a law professor and Chairman of a
civil society NGO, Study and Research Group on Democracy and
Economic and Social Development (Groupe d'Etudes et de
Recherche sure la Democratie et le Developpement Economique
et Social - GERDDES-CI). From 2000 to 2001, he served as
Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (Commission
Nationale Electorale - CNE), precursor to the Independent
Electoral Commission (Commission Electorale Independante -
CEI). Both Zunon Kipre and Guie are generally perceived to be
objective and independent in carrying out their jobs.

4. (U) The opposition political parties have been critical of
Gbagbo's unilateral management change, accusing him of taking
control of the media to limit their access to it. The Final
Communique of the first meeting of the OP Permanent
Consultation Framework, held on June 12, 2007 in
Yamoussoukro, called for a greater opening of the state
media. The Final Communique of the most recent meeting of
the OPA Permanent Consultation Framework, held on January 24,
2008 in Ouagadougou, called for equal access by all political
parties to state media.

5. (SBU) Comment. Gbagbo's decision to allow a new Board of
Directors to appoint the Chairpersons can be viewed as being
responsive to these calls by the Permanent Consultation
Framework. Gbagbo's decision to allow the FPI to le go of
the reins of the state media is a step, albeit a small one,
towards the possibility of transparent and fair elections.
End Comment.
NESBITT

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