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Cablegate: Media Crackdown: Intimidation Increases Ahead of Runoff

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0463/01 1481353
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271353Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2944
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1976
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1999
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2120
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0665
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1397
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1755
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2176
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4607
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1260
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000463

AF/S FOR S.HILL
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN
TREASURY FOR D.PETERS AND T.RAND
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN
COMMERCE FOR BECKY ERKUL
CIA WASHDC

SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ZI
SUBJECT: MEDIA CRACKDOWN: INTIMIDATION INCREASES AHEAD OF RUNOFF

1. SUMMARY: Alongside the ongoing ZANU-PF directed violence in
advance of Zimbabwe's June 27 presidential election runoff, the
Mugabe regime's crack down on dissenting opinion is increasingly
targeting the independent media and even those within the state
media who favor more balanced coverage. According to local media
watch-dog organizations, at least five members of the foreign media
and five Zimbabwean journalists have been arrested or detained in
relation to their coverage of events in Zimbabwe since the March 29
elections, and others have been harassed and assaulted. In addition
to outright violence, the systematic control of coverage and
intimidation of journalists has also included the firing of a
high-level media official for not following ruling party orders, the
tightening of guidelines at the state-run Zimbabwean Broadcasting
Corporation by ZANU-PF leaders, and a crackdown on the opposition
press. Even as campaigning for the run-off begins, these severe
assaults and limits on freedom of expression are yet more evidence
that the conditions for free and fair elections do not exist.
Examples of arrests, detention, intimidation and assault follow. END
SUMMARY.

----------------------------
FOREIGN JOURNALISTS TARGETED
----------------------------

2. Foreign journalists have been a major target of the government's
campaign against the independent media. On April 3, New York Times
correspondent and Amcit Barry Bearak and British freelance
journalist Steven Bevan were arrested for allegedly practicing
journalism without accreditation under AIPPA. Both were acquitted on
April 16 and left the country. Canadian Broadcast Corporation
correspondent Adrienne Arsenault was detained and released the same
day.

3. On March 27, Sipho Moses Maseko and Abdulla Ismail Gaibee, two
South African engineers from Globecast Satellite, were arrested and
accused of practicing journalism without accreditation. They were
acquitted by a magistrate and released, but rearrested after police
argued the magistrate's ruling was defective. After spending a
weekend in jail, the South Africans were re-acquitted on April 14
and left Zimbabwe without covering the elections, although they had
in fact been accredited.

4. Another, journalist, British Times of London correspondent
Jonathan Clayton, was arrested on April 9, and convicted of making a
false declaration of the motives for his presence in the country.
He was fined and deported to South Africa on April 17.

--------------------------
LOCAL JOURNALISTS ARRESTED
--------------------------
5. On May 8, police arrested Davison Maruziva, editor of the
independent newspaper The Standard over an opinion piece by
opposition leader Arthur Mutambara that appeared on April 20 under
the headline: "A shameful betrayal of national Independence." In the
piece, Mutambara sharply criticized Mugabe for his handling of the
general election. He also accused the government of intimidation and
questioned its right to stay in office. Maruziva was released on
bail on May 12.
6. On May 7, police detained media lawyer Harrison Nkomo over
allegations that he made an insulting statement about Mugabe on May
2. He allegedly made the statement while appearing in the High Court
on behalf of freelance journalist Frank Chikowore, who together with
the former Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists
Luke Tamborinyoka and six others, faced charges of inciting public
violence under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA). Chikowore
and others were initially arrested for practicing journalism without
a license under AIPPA after taking pictures of a bus allegedly
burned by ZANU-PF supporters. After discovering Chikowere was in

HARARE 00000463 002 OF 004


fact accredited, police charged him with burning the bus.
Chikowere's trial is ongoing.
7. On May 5, police arrested and detained Reuters photographer
Howard Burditt for three days for allegedly using a satellite phone
to send pictures. Burditt, a Zimbabwean national was covering the
aftermath of the election, when he was arrested and jailed. In a
statement, Reuters said the company "has long had a legitimate and
fully accredited bureau in Harare, and has always complied with
Zimbabwean regulations with the aim of accurately reporting the
news."
8. On April 10, former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Network (ZBC)
journalist Margaret Ann Kriel was arrested in Bulawayo and charged
with practicing journalism without an accreditation under the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) after she
allegedly interviewed several people, including opposition
politicians. She was released on bail after being detained for two
days and placed under house arrest.

---------------
Other Incidents
---------------

9. On May 16, four unknown assailants suspected of being ZANU-PF
supporters assaulted freelance journalist Sydney Saize in Mutare,
accusing him of being a "sell-out". Saize sustained a swollen lip.
He writes for various online news agencies and is a correspondent
for Voice of America's Studio 7, which has in the past year been
jammed by government for its critical reporting of the political,
social, and economic crisis in the country.

10. On April 17, individuals wearing army uniforms assaulted and
robbed Zimbabwe Union of Journalists President Mathew Takaona. On
April 18, journalist and VOA correspondent Stanley Karombo was
assaulted by Zanu-PF supporters during Independence Day
celebrations. After the assault, police searched Karambo's home and
then detained him for four days before releasing him without charge.


--------------------
TURNING ON THEIR OWN
--------------------

11. On May 14, Henry Muradzikwa, the CEO of the state-run Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH), was fired for reportedly defying an
order by Information and Publicity Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu and
Permanent Secretary George Charamba to deny the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) any positive radio or television
coverage and bar the MDC from placing campaign advertisements in
advance of the June 27 presidential run-off. Muradzikwa has stated
that he was unaware of the reason for his dismissal, though he did
note in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent that "nobody has
the right to instruct me on how to act as this was outside the law,"
and that directives should be issued exclusively from ZBH board
members. Muradzikwa had previously been fired from three other state
media organizations, reportedly under similar circumstances. His
replacement, Happyton Muchechetere, was a senior ZBC journalist and
former principal press officer in the office of the president. He
is considered a staunch ZANU-PF loyalist.

12. ZANU-PF has established an information and publicity committee
to spearhead Mugabe's run-off campaign, chaired by ruling party
elder Patrick Chinimasa (who was also Minister of Justice until
losing his seat in the March 29 parliamentary contest). Chinimasa
and his committee will presumably control the content of The Herald
now that Muradzikwa is no longer in control.

-----------------
ZBC Leads the Way

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-----------------

13. ZANU-PF's campaign theme is "100 percent Empowerment: Total
Independence." On May 6, Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu gave
a radio interview in which he echoed the ruling party's campaign
tactic of linking Zimbabwe's sovereignty to ZANU-PF's continued
leadership, stating that the role of ZBC was to "tell the true
Zimbabwean story by having more programs on the liberation war...to
remind people that so much blood was lost in order for them to enjoy
today's independence." Local NGOs tracking media freedom report that
the ZBC has devoted significant post-electoral reporting to
politically-motivated violence in rural areas, attributing the bulk
of culpability to the opposition and white farmers.

------------------------------
Attack on the Opposition Press
------------------------------

14. A 14-tonne truck belonging to the opposition The Zimbabawean
newspaper was stopped and burned on Sunday. The truck was carrying
60,000 copies of Sunday's edition. (NOTE. The Zimbabwean is
published in South African and trucked into Zimbabwe. END NOTE)
The driver and distribution agent were badly beaten.

----------------------
WATCH-DOG GROUPS REACT
----------------------

15. Media watch-dog groups are privately relaying concern that, in
addition to ZBC, the media environment will be far more restrictive
than for the March 29 election. One expert asserted that while
freedom of expression has always been limited in Zimbabwe, that now
there is effectively none. With rural areas under the thumb of
ruling party thugs, the ability of domestic journalists to garner
first hand sources has been severely affected. Details of the
re-accreditation process for journalists have yet to be announced by
ZANU-PF, but many expect the process, similar to the last election,
to be arduous. Previously journalists were required to be accredited
twice- by both the Ministry of Information and the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC), allowing for multiple roadblocks to
gaining permission to report. Only one journalist who received
accreditation by the Ministry was denied it by ZEC; however, NGOs
suspect this may become a more prevalent obstacle in the run-up to
the June 27 contest.

16. Although foreign correspondents are expected to attempt to both
officially and clandestinely return to Zimbabwe to cover the
elections, media freedom NGOs assert that the government is planning
to target and track local "fixers" used by foreigners to obtain
sources. According to the NGOs, by impeding the correspondents'
ability to gain information from fixers, the ZANU-PF hopes to
contain the amount of credible information that will reach
international media houses. To counter this and other ruling party
attempts to censor coverage, civil society organizations again plan
to operate a communications center open to all journalists covering
the election on June 27 in order to facilitate real-time information
sharing.

17. COMMENT. There was extensive coverage of the March 29 elections
both by accredited journalists and by international journalists who
clandestinely entered the country. This coverage certainly played
some role in the relative openness of the elections. Given ZANU-PF's
intent to win the June 27 election at all costs, we expect to see
continued prosecution and persecution of journalists in Zimbabwe,
and efforts to prevent international journalists from coming to
Zimbabwe. END COMMENT.

MCGEE

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6

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