Cablegate: Media Background and Themes for Ambassador

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. (SBU) Media Background: The Government of Zimbabwe
(GoZ) has deliberately and successfully limited media
freedom and the flow of information into and out of
Zimbabwe. The majority of Zimbabweans must rely on
heavily propagandistic government media for news and
analysis of local and international events. The flow
of news out of Zimbabwe has been restricted through the
expulsion of once-resident foreign journalists and
refusals to grant visas to international journalists
wishing to visit.

2. (SBU) Radio is the most influential medium in
Zimbabwe. The GoZ has a monopoly on local broadcast
media and they offer only unrelenting pro-government
propaganda. One independent broadcaster, Voice of the
People, maintained offices in Zimbabwe and provided
news and information via Dutch short wave facilities
until its Harare office was completely destroyed by a
sophisticated firebombing in late August 2002. Another
short wave broadcaster, Short Wave Radio Africa,
provides news and information from studios in the
United Kingdom. Anecdotal information indicates that
short wave broadcasters have only small audiences.

3. (SBU) Urban Zimbabweans have access to a
courageous independent press consisting of one daily
and three weeklies (the Daily News, Financial Gazette,
Zimbabwe Independent, and the Standard). Prices,
logistical challenges, and the fact that pro-government
forces have banned the distribution of independent
newspapers in rural areas means that most rural
Zimbabweans (60% of the population) have no access to
these publications. The independent press is under
steady pressure from the GoZ and pro-government forces.
Arrests of editors and reporters are common and the
Daily News has twice been bombed, most recently in
January 2001 in a sophisticated attack that completely
destroyed the paper's presses. No arrests have been
made. The Daily News recently replaced its presses. A
new media registration law, to come into force later
this year, is likely to result in increased arrests and
harassment of journalists working for the independent

4. (SBU) The GoZ owns and exercises tight editorial
control over two dailies and three weeklies (the
Herald, Chronicle, Sunday Mail, Sunday News and Manica
Post). Although the circulation of these papers has
seen a steady decline, they are generally the only
newspapers available in rural Zimbabwe. There is a
distinct double standard in the application of media
control laws to the independent and government-owned

5. (SBU) Over the last 18 months, non-Zimbabweans
working for the BBC, Agence France Presse, the Mail and
Guardian (South Africa) and other international media
have been forced to leave the country. BBC has
explicitly been banned. The new media registration law
is likely to result in the closure of the Associated
Press, Reuters and AFP bureaus in Zimbabwe, all
currently staffed by Zimbabwean citizens. The GoZ
routinely denies visas to journalists who openly apply
to visit the country for reporting purposes.

6. (U) Media Themes for Ambassador Hall's Visit:
Ambassador Hall's visit could usefully promote several
themes in the media:

A) Zimbabwe's food crisis is becoming increasingly

B) The Government of Zimbabwe should make policy
decisions to permit the private sector and a larger
number of NGOs to take part in helping to meet the
nation's food needs.

C) Among the policy issues we believe are
exacerbating the food crisis are the Grain Marketing
Board's monopoly on grain imports and sales;
unrealistically low controlled prices on staple
foods; ponderous bureaucratic procedures for
clearing donated food through Zimbabwean customs;
and limitations on the NGOs permitted to participate
in food distribution programs.

D) The United States has been the principal food
donor to Zimbabwe, with generous contributions from
the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Additional assistance from other donors is needed to
meet Zimbabwe's food needs.

E) While Southern Africa's drought is a factor in
the food crisis, the Government of Zimbabwe needs to
face the fact that it also bears responsibility for
the situation. Macroeconomic mismanagement
(including deficit spending, a grossly overvalued
currency, multiple exchange rates, and unrealistic
price controls), a violent and chaotic land
redistribution program that has badly damaged the
nation's agricultural sector, and a disregard for
the rule of law that has alienated foreign investors
and business, have all played a substantial role in
creating conditions under which more than half of
all Zimbabweans need food aid.

F) The United States will not politicize its food
assistance to Zimbabwe. In spite of our serious
concerns about the actions and policies of the
Zimbabwean government, we will not abandon the
people of Zimbabwe at this time of need.

G) We are working closely with the World Food
Program and our bilateral NGO partners to make sure
that the food we provide is distributed on a non-
partisan basis.


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