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Cablegate: Ars and Voa Speakers Empower 200 More Journalists in Drc

VZCZCXRO7638
RR RUEHMA
DE RUEHKI #1058/01 1841018
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031018Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4281
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1111
INFO RUEHMA/AMEMBASSY MALABO
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0196
RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE 1378
RUEHAN/AMEMBASSY ANTANANARIVO 0015
RUEHPL/AMEMBASSY PORT LOUIS 0029

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 001058

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/PDPA, IIP/G/AF
PARIS FOR AFRICA REGIONAL SERVICES

SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM CG KDEM KPAO
SUBJECT: ARS AND VOA SPEAKERS EMPOWER 200 MORE JOURNALISTS IN DRC

REF: KINSHASA 225 (NOTAL)

1. (U) Summary: Crisscrossing the Congo in April and June, ahead of
historic elections July 30, VOA Chief Editor (Central Africa French
service) Ferdinand Ferella, and ARS Speaker Eduardo Cue held seven
workshops in five cities, for a total of 200 radio and television
journalists. PAO accompanied them. Sixty other journalists
participated in similar workshops in February, those too under the
tutelage of Eduardo Cue. In their own way, both speakers sought to
give Congolese journalists tips to ensure their credibility, give
voice to the public, and bolster their courage to ask uncomfortable
questions of those who seek to govern. The pre-election period is an
ideal opportunity, they said, for journalists responsibly to exert
their freedoms. If they failed, Cue contended, Congolese democracy,
too, would fail. End Summary

Cue: Inconvenient Truths
------------------------

2. (U) As in February, when he held forth at workshops organized by
PD in Kinshasa (reftel), Eduardo Cue, the Paris-based correspondent
for U.S. News and World Report (which recently featured an article
by Cue on Zimbabwe), used theoretical, ethical and practical lessons
and examples to make powerful points about the importance of press
credibility in covering the July 30, and subsequent, elections. This
time, PD took his presentation on the road, to Lubumbashi (June 15)
and Kananga (June 17-18), finishing up with a workshop in Kinshasa
(June 20).

3. (U) With the Society of Professional Journalists ethics code in
hand, Eduardo Cue addressed corrupt practices in journalism, warning
against conflicts of interest. This is a particularly hard message
for underpaid Congolese journalists, who survive on payments from
those seeking favorable press treatment (known here as "coupage"),
and/or for journalists who moonlight as press attaches for
government ministries or political parties.

4. (U) There was a stunned silence among the 38 participants in
Kananga when Cue asserted that "coupage" and other ethical
transgressions by reporters could actually destroy the DRC's nascent
democracy and usher in renewed conflict. Cue reasoned that if the
coming elections are perceived as lacking integrity, then political
instability and worse could follow. Slanted, tendentious, and
irresponsible reporting, deriving often from conflicts of interest,
could simply rob the elections of their credibility, he concluded.
Eduardo Cue had the same jaw-dropping reaction in Lubumbashi when he
told the 35 reporters at the workshop that many were working hard
for honest elections, but not journalists, yet their role was
perhaps the most important in a successful transition to democracy.

5. The good news, Eduardo Cue said, is that journalists have more
power than they realize to make a stand for press freedom, a sine
qua non of democracy, and this election period affords a prime
opportunity. In Kananga and Kinshasa, Cue cited the example of a
commercial radio station journalist in Lubumbashi, our first stop,
who told the workshop that the second time the Congolese
intelligence service (ANR) threatened her and seized her equipment,
her station took the incident on the air. The ANR returned her
equipment. While most such encounters will not have such felicitous
outcomes, Cue said that this case proved that a stand could be
made.

6. Armed with credibility and professionalism, the reporter must
then assert his or her independence by, at times, going against
accepted wisdom, said Cue. Reporters must have the courage to raise
uncomfortable and inconvenient questions. Eduardo Cue lamented that
the American media failed in this regard between 9/11 and the Iraq
war. By not putting Western journalism on a pedestal, Eduardo Cue
made his high standards more accessible to the Congolese
journalists.

Lead, Angle, Close: Practical Advice
------------------------------------

7. Using reports prepared in advance by the participants, both
Eduardo Cue and Ferdinand Ferella plunged into the techniques of
radio reporting. Ferella encouraged journalists in Kinshasa (April
22, 24), Kisangani (April 26), and Goma (April 28) - who eagerly
crammed ideas and sound bites into their 90-second reports - to
develop one central message, avoid beginning with background
material, avoid adages and clichs, and (especially in radio) use
economy of words. Cue exhorted each journalist to have a clear idea
about what he or she wanted to know (Savoir ce qu'on veut savoir).
Ferella and Cue both lectured on interview techniques. Both also

KINSHASA 00001058 002 OF 002


stressed that, in radio reporting, the container has to be as
important as the contents. That is, if lead, angle, sources, and
close are not well done, the audience will not listen or not
remember. In a very practical vein, Cue underscored the importance
of putting partial election results in proper perspective, to avoid
having a final counting reversal become a pretext for contesting the
results.

8. Ferdinand Ferella held a special workshop with RAGA radio and
television personnel, given the VOA's rebroadcast arrangement with
RAGA. With Congolese press credentials, Ferella also prepared
stories for VOA on "coupage" and on candidates recruiting children
to stage rallies or other demonstrations. Ferella, who was the only
international correspondent to report directly from Kisangani while
war raged in the city during the late 90s, and whose daily VOA
broadcasts are heard in the DRC, was given a certificate of
appreciation by a civic organization when in Kisangani this time.

Comment
-------

9. Given the stakes of the July 30 democratic elections in the DRC,
this large country's first in more than 40 years, these workshops
were perhaps the most important he had ever held, according to one
of our speakers. To be sure, journalistic professionalism in the
DRC will stay very uneven for a long time, "coupage" will continue
to corrupt, and criminal defamation laws will continue to intimidate
journalists. Still, when combined with similar efforts undertaken
by other international donors (notably, DFID, France, Belgium, UNDP,
EU), Congolese journalists increasingly know that they have the
power to do more than parrot, or hand the microphone over to,
political leaders, and the responsibility to inform the voter.

MEECE

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