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Cablegate: Agreement's Media Provisions Lacking

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0864/01 2661516
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221516Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3475
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 2085
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2317
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2436
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0951
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1714
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2069
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2490
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4922
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1585
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000864

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/S FOR G. GARLAND
DRL FOR N. WILETT
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L.DOBBINS AND E.LOKEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV ECPS ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: AGREEMENT'S MEDIA PROVISIONS LACKING

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Local Zimbabwe media groups have cautiously
welcomed the signing of the power-sharing agreement between the
Zimbabwe National African Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), noting that it offers some
hope for media reform. The groups say the agreement acknowledges the
need for media reform especially in relation to the entry of new
players and reconstituting key media regulatory structures in the
country. We are more skeptical, because the agreement denounces
foreign broadcasters like Voice of America (VOA), and doesn't go as
far as necessary in guaranteeing a free press. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) The September 15 power-sharing agreement between ZANU-PF and
the two MDC factions includes several provision related to media.
Article 19 of the agreement covers Freedom of Expression and
Communication and recognizes the "right to freedom of expression and
the role of the media in a multi-party democracy." However, it does
not include an explicit commitment to repeal the repressive Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Public
Order and Security Act (POSA). The parties merely agree that the
"government shall ensure immediate processing of all applications
for re-registration and registration" under AIPPA; instead of
calling for the lifting of repressive media laws, the agreement
states that all Zimbabwean journalists be allowed to register under
those laws. The agreement does call for balanced coverage in the
media and states that "public and private media shall refrain from
using abusive language that may incite hostility, political
intolerance and ethnic hatred."

3. (SBU) Article 19 states that "foreign government funded external
radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe are not in Zimbabwe's
national interest," calls on governments to cease funding and
hosting such stations and encourages Zimbabweans working for them to
come home. This is clearly targeted at VOA and SW Radio.

4. (U) Media watchdog groups in Zimbabwe have cautiously welcomed
the agreement. The Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of
Southern Africa (MISA) said the agreement "should usher in a new era
of tolerance and diversity of views." MISA further urged the
incoming government to transform state-run radio and TV into a
"truly independent public broadcaster," and called for the repeal of
all repressive legislation that targets the media. In a statement,
the Media Monitoring Project (MMPZ) also welcomed the agreement but
raised concern that Article 19 of the agreement "substantially fails
to meet internationally recognized standards regarding media
freedom," which MMPZ says "can only be achieved by the complete
reform of all repressive media legislation."

5. (SBU) Exiled Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta, writing in the
South African based newspaper the "Mercury" (September 18), says
that the agreement has not brought any relief so that he "can
re-enter a new democratic country in which the rights of citizens
are respected." "I just don't see how it (the deal) will work," said
Peta. Similar sentiments have been echoed by Wilf Mbanga, editor of
the independent newspaper the "Zimbabwean." Mbanga, some of whose
employees were tortured by state agents, says that there are no
guarantees that his reporters will be allowed to work freely.
Several foreign journalists entered Zimbabwe clandestinely to cover
the signing of the agreement after the Ministry of Information
refused to authorize their visits. No arrests have been reported but
journalists that we have talked to are not working openly, fearing
arrest.

6. (SBU) COMMENT. The power-sharing agreement between the major
political parties in Zimbabwe acknowledges the need for a free media
environment, but fails to call for the necessary reforms. Its call
for the closure of VOA and similar broadcasters clearly advances the
ZANU-PF agenda. Unless the MDC gains control of the Ministry of
Information we are skeptical about the prospects for real reform in
the short term. In any case, we will closely monitor developments

HARARE 00000864 002 OF 002


with respect to press freedom as the agreement is implemented. END
COMMENT.

DHANANI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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