Search

 

Cablegate: Managing the Media Campaign in the Drc's

VZCZCXRO8285
PP RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR
DE RUEHKI #0937/01 1650845
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140845Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4114
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000937

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KPAO CG ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: MANAGING THE MEDIA CAMPAIGN IN THE DRC'S
ELECTIONS


Sensitive But Unclassified. Not for Internet
distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: The GDRC has reportedly agreed to fund a
much-reduced budget, which would allow the High Media
Authority (HAM) to provide for minimal fair media coverage
to the 33 presidential candidates. The more than 9,700
legislative and 12,300 provincial candidates, however,
will likely be left to their own devices to get the
attention of voters. The GDRC's decision to fund the HAM
coincides with the June 10-12 visit to Kinshasa of the
UNSC delegation. Should the government's promise to fund
not be kept, the HAM will look to donor countries in the
days before the opening of the official election campaign
on June 29. HAM President Modeste Mutinga argues that his
failure to assure media coverage to all 33 candidates
would provide one more reason for voters to contest the
election results. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Along with the Independent Electoral Commission
(CEI), the High Media Authority (Haute Autorite des Medias
- HAM) was created by the Sun City Accord as a guarantor
institution of the DRC's new democracy, independent of
government. Consistent with that role, the HAM organized
a series of broadcast debates on the DRC's constitutional
referendum in December 2005. The Electoral Law of 2006
mandates the HAM to provide candidates with equal access
to the media during the official (30-day) campaign and
make opposition to unacceptable content (arts. 33 and 35).
However, as HAM President Modeste Mutinga told an ad hoc
group of donor representatives on June 8, the budget for
elections seems to have overlooked entirely the HAM's
role. Reducing his original budget request from USD 4
million to USD 0.5 million, and focusing only on the
presidential contest, Mutinga in early June appealed
directly to VP Jean-Pierre Bemba, who presides over the
GDRC's finances. Bemba's reply, according to Mutinga, was
to suggest that the HAM get its money from the CEI, which
itself has little, if any, to spare.

Getting the Ear of the UNSC
---------------------------

3. (U) In his meeting with the visiting UNSC delegation on
June 11 (septel), Modeste Mutinga reportedly sounded the
alarm about how television and radio stations under the
control of some presidential candidates - including the
current president and VPs - are inciting ethnic
intolerance and hatred. Mutinga reportedly cited the
nefarious role of hate media in Rwanda and Ivory Coast.

4. (U) While the UNSC delegation was still in Kinshasa
came the news that the GDRC would provide the USD 0.5
million requested by the HAM after all. According to its
draft budget, this money would enable the HAM to provide
each presidential candidate with two debate appearances
(debating four other candidates selected by lottery) and
three five-minute campaign messages, spread over 34 radio
and television stations, from June 29 to July 28 when the
"official" campaign period ends. The budget would also
allow the HAM to monitor objectionable content of other
media during this time.

What About the Legislative Elections?
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) In their June 8 meeting, HAM President Mutinga
showed the donor representatives a stack of about 200
pages which, he said, was the schedule for debates and
campaign messages the HAM had devised for the candidates
for the National Assembly in Kinshasa alone. He said he
had no money to photocopy the pages, let alone pay for the
media access. He said he hoped a somewhat structured
presidential campaign, representing the major party
leaders, would somehow help keep the legislative races in
tow. He said he was gratified that USAID-funded NDI was
proposing to finance some selected debates among
legislative candidates in the provinces.

6. (SBU) UN-sponsored Radio Okapi, which covers about 70
percent of the DRC, has already begun featuring candidates
and debates, and its broadcasts are further picked up by
about a dozen associated radio stations. Since October,
in fact, Radio Okapi has given access to political

KINSHASA 00000937 002 OF 002


parties. The HAM has complained that Radio Okapi has
prematurely commenced its election campaign reporting.
However, as Okapi Director Yves LaPlume told PAO on June
12, his radio distinguishes between the election campaign
and the "official" campaign. Furthermore, he noted,
especially given the number of candidates, the latter, at
30 days, is far too short and a disservice to voters. Not
surprisingly, then, Radio Okapi is not among the 34
selected by the HAM to produce aspects of the official
media campaigns.

7. (SBU) Consistent with its mandate, we have heard that
the HAM also fleetingly tried to convince the
international media outlets in the DRC (Agence France
Presse, Reuters and others) to give equal treatment to the
33 presidential candidates in a request which was not
taken seriously by them.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) Is the HAM destined to whistle in the wind? A
media campaign with so many candidates (more than 9,700
legislative and 12,300 provincial candidates alone) and
political parties (more than 200) is probably ungovernable
by just one entity. Some observers contend that the HAM
should rather limit itself to monitoring and sanctioning
hate-mongering, and get out of the business of also
spooning out air time in equal doses to admittedly vastly
unequal candidates. Moreover, most of the serious
presidential candidates have their own radio and
television stations, and have started campaigning.

9. (SBU) Still, as Modeste Mutinga told us on June 8, if
the HAM is not seen by the voters as doing what the law
says it should - clock candidates' official air time and
react to the contents of their speech - then that could be
handing the spoilers another reason to cry foul. And as
the campaign temperature rises, any attempt at orderly
procedure and structure could have a calming effect.
MEECE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

OECD: COVID-19 Crisis Puts Migration And Progress On Integration At Risk, Says

Watch the live webcast of the press conference Migration flows have increased over the past decade and some progress has been made to improve the integration of immigrants in the host countries. But some of these gains may be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic ... More>>


Pacific Media Watch: How Pacific Environmental Defenders Are Coping With The Covid Pandemic

SPECIAL REPORT: By Sri Krishnamurthi of Pacific Media Watch Pacific Climate Warriors - creative action to trigger better responses to climate crisis. Image: ... More>>

Reporters Without Borders: Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing Marred By Barriers To Open Justice

After monitoring four weeks of evidence in the US extradition proceedings against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates concern regarding the targeting of Assange for his contributions to journalism, and calls ... More>>

OHCHR: Stranded Migrants Need Safe And Dignified Return – UN Migrant Workers Committee

The UN Committee on Migrant Workers has today called on governments to take immediate action to address the inhumane conditions of migrant workers who are stranded in detention camps and ensure they can have an orderly, safe and dignified return to ... More>>