Cablegate: Government-Owned Media Criticized

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Under the title "Journalism in government media
has gone to the dogs," the independent daily "The Daily
News'" April 26 editorial criticizes the Government of
Zimbabwe's apparent double standard in applying its
draconian media control laws. The editorial points out
that state-owned media are free to publish outlandish
fabrications, while independent press face constant
harassment even for factual reports.

2. A telling example of this double standard appeared
on April 22 and 23 when the government-owned daily
"Chronicle" published back-to-back front-page reports
that surely violated Zimbabwean law against publishing
"falsehoods" or stories that cause "fear, alarm and
despondency." On April 22 the Chronicle ran a front-
page story article accusing the opposition Movement of
Democratic Change (MDC) of "planning a massive
terrorist attack. coordinated by a 'political affairs'
officer at the U.S. Embassy. to invoke civil unrest and
pave way for military intervention by Britain and the
U.S." (see reftel). On April 22, the paper ran a follow-
up story claiming that "at least 400 opposition MDC
terrorists" infiltrated Zimbabwe during the run up to
the March presidential poll.

3. The "Daily News" April 26 editorial makes the
following observations:

"On several occasions over the past 18 months or
so, journalists in the country's privately owned
Press have been arrested and detained on spurious
charges of publishing falsehoods. More recently,
alleged breaching of a section of the Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act have been
cited as the basis for the arrests of media
practitioners - arrests which, incidentally, have
become more frequent. . . We must note here that
the law in question infringes upon the people's
right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the
Constitution of Zimbabwe and enshrined in the
Universal Bill of Rights. . . That fact not
withstanding, it is its skewed application which
has become a source of grave concern and dismay
among the journalistic fraternity. It is those who
publish the truth who get arrested for no other
reason than that the truth they publish makes
government uncomfortable. On the other hand, those
in the State-controlled media who routinely
publish, not just minor falsehoods, but complete
fabrications, are left to go scot-free because,
apart from tarnishing the image of its 'enemies,'
those falsehoods are what the government would like
to hear.

". . .The 'Chronicle" this week decided to outdo
its stablemates by publishing its own incredibly
fictitious story. . .the whole story is, of
course, utter balderdash, and shows how journalism
at the State-controlled media has gone to the
dogs. We, therefore, seriously expect the police
to move swiftly against both the writer and the
paper's editor because, as must be clear to any
right-thinking person, the story is not only a
fabrication, but is likely to cause much fear,
alarm and despondency. If they fail to move
against the paper, they will have forever
forfeited their authority to move against anyone
in connection with publishing falsehoods real or


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