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Cablegate: Voa's Studio 7 Making Waves in Zimbabwe; Harare

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 002170

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/PDPA FOR DALTON, MITCHELL AND SIMS
AF FOR RAYNOR
NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER
LONDON FOR GURNEY
PARIS FOR NEARY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
VOA/IBB FOR OGULNIK, STEWART, MENGESHA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO KMDR ZI
SUBJECT: VOA'S STUDIO 7 MAKING WAVES IN ZIMBABWE; HARARE

1. At first glance, Negussie Mengesha's - VOA Program
Manager, Africa Division - visit to Zimbabwe seemed
difficult, if not impossible. What stood in his way was
the hardnosed anti-VOA Studio 7 rhetoric by the government
of Zimbabwe's spokesman, Information Minister Jonathan
Moyo. "Studio 7 will die. It faces death. They think we
are sleeping, we want to see where they are going with
Studio 7," Moyo was quoted as saying recently in the local
press. With statements like this, it appears to be yet
another hurdle to be jumped, another myth to be conquered.
However, unlike the proverbial angry child who runs away
from the demands of home, burning bridges and scattering
ashes in its wake, Mengesha flew into Zimbabwe on October
19, only to be welcomed by Nathan Shamuyarira, ZANU PF
Secretary for Information and Publicity, and saluted by the
leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai, before hobnobbing with Zimbabwe's
most polished journalists, media watchdogs and recording
companies.

2. To his surprise and eventual pleasure, notwithstanding
the sad arrest of Studio 7 stringer Moreblessing Zulu
(later released without charge), Mengesha was drenched with
positive feedback about the "very informative station."
Much like the slow but persistent tortoise that eventually
outran the swifter hare in the ancient African fable,
Studio 7 - after a few uncomfortable broadcasts - has
inched steadily ahead after hitting the airwaves in
Zimbabwe eight months ago. He was informed of modest gains
in the number of listeners in both rural and urban
settings, especially after the closure of Zimbabwe's only
independent daily newspaper "The Daily News" by the
government of Zimbabwe on September 12, 2003 following a
Supreme Court declaration that the paper was operating
outside the law. The ever-increasing cover cost of
mainstream newspapers is also driving bountiful news
consumers to listen to Studio 7's "timely, accurate. and
balanced" news programs.

3. Mr. Mengesha paid a courtesy call on Mr. Sunsleey
Chamunorwa, Editor-in-Chief of the independent
weekly "The Financial Gazette." Mr. Chamunorwa fell
hook, line and sinker over a proposal by Mr.
Mengesha to introduce an Editor's Forum program when
the station starts airing programs seven days a
week. Mr. Bornwell Chakaodza, Editor of the
independent weekly "The Standard", also backed the
idea. Chakaodza even volunteered to be on the
panel without any hesitation. All editors gave
kudos to Studio 7 and encouraged the station to
continue striving for excellence and balanced
reporting, adding, they are prepared to carry Studio
7 adverts in their newspapers. Mengesha also
touched base with officials from the Zimbabwe
Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa
(MISA) during a luncheon arranged at USAID. He also
met with the editorial team of the Media Monitoring
Project at the same venue. Issues discussed during
these meetings covered the welfare of journalists in
Zimbabwe, press freedom, and how the controversial
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
(AIPPA) is affecting journalists, especially those
working for the independent press or foreign media.
With the Studio 7 music library in mind, Mr.
Mengesha also visited two recording companies in
Harare - Zimbabwe Music Corporation and Ngaavongwe
Records. The two recording companies expressed
interest in providing Studio 7 with the latest
information on the top selling local albums and
songs.

4. The meeting with opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai was a
brilliant eye opener. According to Mr. Tsvangirai,
people in outlying areas are surprisingly listening
to Studio 7. "One old man at one of my rallies in a
remote part of Zimbabwe boldly asked me to grant
more interviews to Studio 7," he disclosed to Mr.
Mengesha. Mr. Tsvangirai took his hat off to Studio
7 "for its Herculean, successful efforts to spread
the news about Zimbabwe, from Zimbabwe, by
Zimbabweans to fellow Zimbabweans."

5. You don't need an overload of cash to get an overload
of performance from stringers. The VOA training program
for the stringers in Johannesburg, South Africa and the
visit to the "war zone" by "General" Negussie Mengesha,
encouraged and overjoyed the stringers. In the true spirit
of a Marvin Gaye song - Brother, brother, brother. . .You
know we've got to find a way to bring some loving here. .
.What's going on? - Zimbabweans know that truth is going
on, on Studio 7. And hope. And a balanced source of news
that gives listeners a front row seat on events happening
in Zimbabwe.

6. So, congratulations and please keep on keeping on.
Because without an objective alternative voice,
Zimbabweans will cease to be informed, especially in
an environment where state-controlled media has a
print and electronic monopoly. Keep it going for
Zimbos!

SULLIVAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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