Cablegate: Media Developments in Southern Sudan
DE RUEHKH #0284 0580842
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 270842Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0051
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000284
DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, AF SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: MEDIA DEVELOPMENTS IN SOUTHERN SUDAN
1. (SBU) Summary: CG Christopher Datta met with Minister of
Information and Broadcasting Gabriel Chang on the morning of
February 25 to discuss the developing media in South Sudan.
Starting with almost nothing, Chang outlined an ambitious agenda for
the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) to reach out to Southern
audiences that included medium wave and FM radio stations and the
inauguration of a new television channel on March 28th.
2. (SBU) Minister Chang briefed CG Datta on an impressive plan to
expand radio and TV services to the people of the Southern Sudan. A
medium wave GoSS station now covers the entire South, and FM
licenses are being granted to local start-up ventures. The problem
faced by the ministry is how to develop programming for these
stations with little in the way of staff and financial support. The
ministry is seeking to create, for example, a new news organization
that can report from all parts of the South, as well as from
neighboring capitals in Kampala, Addis and Nairobi.
3. (SBU) The Minister indicated he is not getting the level of
cooperation from leaders in the GoSS that he would like to see in
using the media to reach the people of the South with GoSS messages.
They are slow, he said, to understand the power of radio in
particular to reach people outside of Juba, which is badly needed.
Especially in remote rural areas, little is understood of what the
GoSS is doing and radio, through its power to reach this largely
illiterate population, can help to inform and unite the South.
4. (SBU) CG Datta asked how quickly the licensing of private FM
stations was progressing, commenting on reports that the northern
government was opposed to such licensing on the grounds that the
GoSS did not have the authority to issue FM licenses. The Minister
answered that the central government was indeed opposed to it, but
he maintained that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) did
provide the authority and the GoSS was proceeding anyway. FM
stations, he said, were of critical importance because, although
they had only a short range, the local nature of the stations
allowed them to broadcast in local languages with news and
entertainment of local interest. In many areas, English and Arabic,
the languages used on the medium wave station, were not understood
in many rural areas and local FM stations filled the information
gap. No matter what the government in Khartoum thought, they would
continue to license new stations for this reason.
5. (SBU) Last, the Minister informed the CG that the GoSS would be
inaugurating a new television channel on March 28. It would begin
with six hours of daily programming, and seek to expand later. It
would be available by broadcast in Juba, but also be available
across the region to those with satellite dishes.
6. (SBU) Comment: As with almost all sectors of Southern Sudan, the
Ministry of Information is starting with almost nothing and little
expertise. They are learning as they go, but Minister Chang has an
impressive agenda and seems to understand the powerful role that the
media can play in communicating to and uniting Southern Sudan.