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Cablegate: Kinshasa Broadcast Media Pledge to Try to Avoid Turning

VZCZCXRO0579
PP RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1388 2431645
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 311645Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4720
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS KINSHASA 001388

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PINS KPAO CG
SUBJECT: Kinshasa Broadcast Media Pledge to Try to Avoid Turning
Political Adversaries into Enemies

REF: A) KINSHASA 1357, B) KINSHASA 1302

Sensitive but Unclassified. Not for Internet Distribution.

1. (U) Summary: In the wake of inflammatory broadcasts and
counter-broadcasts pitting media allied with Jean-Pierre Bemba and
Joseph Kabila against each other, the directors of Kinshasa
television stations signed pledges of good conduct on August 26 and
30. There has already been one violation and a consequent
suspension, that of pro-Bemba RLTV. Meanwhile, media actually owned
by Vice-President Bemba have delayed resuming broadcasts, quite
possibly because of threats to their staffs. Legitimate journalists
continue to stand on one foot, not sure what kind of political
reporting will get them into trouble. End Summary

Signing the Pledge of Good Media Conduct
----------------------------------------

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2. (U) As noted in ref A, the Ambassador attended a ceremony on
August 26, under the auspices of MONUC and the High Media Authority
(HAM), during which the managing directors of six television
stations signed a pledge to avoid provocative broadcasts. The
stations involved were Bemba-owned CCTV and CKTV, pro-Bemba RLTV and
Moliere TV, and pro-Kabila Digital-Congo and RTNC1 (state-owned
television). They pledged to avoid political call-in shows, live or
fake-live broadcasts from violent or provocative demonstrations, and
shocking images. They also pledged to avoid defamation,
justifications for racial or ethnic hatred, and televised political
debates which feature just one point of view.

3. (U) In his formal remarks at the ceremony, aimed at the broadcast
media, HAM President Modeste Mutinga further warned that even
reporting the truth should not cross the line of libel or smear of
the President, Vice-Presidents, or Ministers. Mutinga said this was
not meant to censor the press.

4. (U) Mutinga also contended that the fighting in Kinshasa August
20-22 might have spread had the HAM not taken the action on August
17 of shutting down television stations CCTV, RTNC1 and RTAE for 24
hours (ref B).

5. (U) On August 30, about a score of representatives of other
Kinshasa television stations signed the same pledge. On August 31,
HAM President Mutinga was interviewed by Ferdinand Ferella of the
Voice of America about the need to rein in broadcast provocations.

The First Violation
-------------------

6. (SBU) On August 30, the signal of Kinshasa-based Radio Lisanga
Television (RLTV) was shut down. RLTV director Simplice Kalunga,
who signed the pledge on August 26, told us the reason was the
content of a political talk show that day. Henry Wania, an MLC
official known for making inflammatory statements, appeared on the
show and, once again, tried to incite listeners to violence.
Kalunga admitted that the talk show's host, Basile Olongo, had
previously put RLTV in hot water with the HAM, adding that he
intended to issue a public statement of apology for having violated
the pledge.

Bemba-owned Media Still Silent
------------------------------

7. (U) Bemba-owned television stations CCTV and CKTV, and RALIK
(Liberte) radio are still off the air, even though they were
expected to resume broadcasts on August 31. According to
press-freedom NGO Journaliste en Danger, this could be the result of
physical threats made against their personnel. JED met with about a
dozen employees of CKTV on August 28, who reportedly told of
menacing visits and anonymous phone calls warning them to quit the
station.

8. (SBU) Comment: The HAM is valiantly trying to turn back the tide
of venomous campaign rhetoric, which has become increasingly
vitriolic. This effort will be hit or miss. Meanwhile, legitimate
broadcast journalists have told us, through their representatives,
that they have doubts now about how to report on current events,
given the severity and ambiguity of the HAM strictures. End Comment


MEECE

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