Search

 

Cablegate: Zimbabwe Announces Members of New Media Commission

VZCZCXRO5002
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0044/01 0221137
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221137Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5331
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3272
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3383
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1806
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2640
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 3010
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0071
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0073
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2542
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000044

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/S FOR B.WALCH
DRL FOR N. WILETT
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR M. GAVIN
DEPT FOR AF/PDPA LALLISON AND BSTRASSBERGER
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM KPAO ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE ANNOUNCES MEMBERS OF NEW MEDIA COMMISSION

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) The GOZ has named members of the Zimbabwe Media
Commission (ZMC), a regulatory body that will receive and
process applications for media publishing licenses. Media
groups view this development as an opportunity to democratize
the media environment in Zimbabwe. However, they question
the independence of the regulatory body and have expressed
fears that the ZMC might be paralyzed by the diametrically
opposed viewpoints of the commissioners. Appointments to the
other three new constitutional commissions -- electoral,
human rights, and anti-corruption -- have yet to be either
fully disclosed or determined. END SUMMARY.

----------------------------------------
Media Commission a Product of Compromise
----------------------------------------

2. (U) On December 23, 2009, at a joint press conference,
President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
named Godfrey Majonga as chairman and Nqobile Nyathi as
deputy chair of the newly constituted Zimbabwe Media
Commission (ZMC). Other members of the nine-member
commission are Henry Muradzikwa, Matthew Takaona, Millicent
Mombeshora, Chris Mhike, Chris Mutsvangwa, Miriam Madziwa and
Lawton Hikwa. The Commission will receive and process
applications for publishing licenses and other functions as
directed by Parliament.

3. (SBU) Majonga is currently Deputy Director of Danhiko
Project, a Harare-based NGO focused on delivering benefits to
disabled Zimbabweans. First Lady Grace Mugabe serves as
Danhiko's patron and her visits to the center have been
extensively covered by the local media. Little is known
about Majonga's predisposition in terms of media freedom
issues except that he worked as a TV presenter for the
state-controlled monopoly broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation (ZBC). ZBC is known for its positive coverage of
ZANU-PF. It is likely that Majonga, along with former ZBC
Chief Executive Officer Muradzikwa, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
Divisional Head Mombeshora, former diplomat Mutsvangwa and
National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Dean
Hikwa, all favor ZANU-PF.

4. (SBU) Deputy Chairperson, Nqobile Nyathi is a media
lecturer at NUST and reports to Hikwa. She was previously
editor of the Daily News when it was shut down in 2003 by the
now defunct Media and Information Commission (MIC). She also
worked for the Financial Gazette, before it transferred
ownership to Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono in 2003.
Along with media lawyer Chris Mhike and journalist Miriam
Madziwa, Nyathi is seen as a reform-minded individual with
vast knowledge of the journalism profession. She is close to
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe and sources at NUST say
she has authored several speeches for her.

5. (SBU) Takaona, who served for ten years as President of
the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), and Hikwa, an IV
Alum (2000), have worked in the government-controlled
QAlum (2000), have worked in the government-controlled
Zimbabwe Newspapers Group, publishers of the only dailies in
the country (the Herald and the Chronicle), as journalist and
board member respectively. They supported government actions
against independent media, including defending the legality
of the MIC when it was challenged by independent media
journalists. ZUJ President Takaona campaigned for media
reform and was part of initiatives to form a self-regulatory

HARARE 00000044 002 OF 003


body, the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ), but he
also, in stepping down as President, participated in
anti-democratic ZUJ elections that assured him a continued
role as consultant to the Union. Hikwa's resignation from
the Zimpapers board has never been explained publicly and was
viewed by some as an act of independence; however, he is
close to Mugabe's spokesperson, George Charamba, and is said
to be a defender of ZA
NU-PF policies.

--------------------------------------------- --
Free Media Advocates Prepare for Disappointment
--------------------------------------------- --

6. (U) In a statement released January 15, leading media
advocacy group, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
said the commission was "a potential vehicle to democratize
the media, long shackled by political controls." MISA was
skeptical, however, of the independence of the new media
regulatory body to promote diverse and plural media. MISA
said ZMC would operate under the very same repressive legal
instruments that had decimated the private media and hindered
the proliferation of alternative sources of information.
Andrew Moyse, head of independent media monitoring group,
Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ), was quoted in
the media saying the ZMC "might be paralyzed by the
diametrically opposing viewpoints of the commissioners. The
ZANU-PF elements in the commission will resist reform. It is
a bit of a mixed bag, but we understand because this is a
product of heavy compromises everywhere."

7. (SBU) There has been little information about when the
ZMC will begin receiving and processing applications for
licenses from prospective publishers. Deputy Minister of
Media, Information, and Publicity Jameson Timba said there
were still a few issues that had to be addressed before the
commission begins its work. He said the ZMC was already
defined in terms of the Access to Information and Protection
of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and therefore did not need any law to
formalize its operations. There is no provision requiring
the taking of oaths -- whether in the Constitution or in the
relevant Act -- for the new commissioners. Mutsvangwa
reportedly told a meeting convened by the Dutch Embassy that
all the ZMC required to begin its work was an official
publication in the Government Gazette formally announcing the
commissioners. Takaona and Mhike said they still have not
received formal communication from the government regarding
their appointment to the ZMC on January 20.

-----------------------------------
Other Commissions Not Yet Completed
-----------------------------------

8. (SBU) The three other constitutionally-mandated
commissions have lagged behind the ZMC in terms of
appointments. The government has announced commission
members for the electoral commission and human rights
commission, but has not disclosed who will chair and deputy
these commissions.
Qthese commissions.

-------
COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) With the announcement of the ZMC, organizations
such as the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ),
publishers of the banned Daily News, and the Zimind
Publishers -- which has announced plans for a daily newspaper
-- have some hope that their publications will be licensed.

HARARE 00000044 003 OF 003


But questions remain as to how independent the ZMC will be,
and AIPPA poses a continuing threat to press freedoms. There
are high hopes for enhanced press freedom under the new media
commission, but we will wait to see how events develop before
drawing conclusions. END COMMENT.

RAY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 


UN: UNHCR Chief Urges Better Support For 13 Million 'Exhausted' And Displaced Syrians
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has urged greater international support for the more than 13 million Syrians who’ve been displaced in the past 10 years...More>>


>UN: Recent Kosovo-Serbia Tensions Could ‘Unravel Steady But Fragile Progress’

Tensions over vehicle licence plates and anti-smuggling operations, between authorities in Kosovo and Serbia, in recent weeks, may contribute to unravelling “steady but fragile progress made in rebuilding trust among communities” in Kosovo and Serbia...
More>>

ITUC: Nobel Prize In Economics Explodes Minimum Wage And Jobs Myth

The prize was awarded to David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens for real-world research in the 1990s that demonstrated, empirically, that the idea touted by conservative economists that higher minimum wages mean fewer jobs is not based on fact... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs


UN: With Clock Ticking, Sustainable Transport Key To Global Goals
From electric cars and buses to zero-carbon producing energy sources, new and emerging technologies along with innovative policy changes, are critical for combating climate change. But to be effective, they must ensure that transport strategies benefit everyone, including the poorest... More>>


COP26: 7 Climate Action Highlights To Remember

A September to remember, a pivotal month for climate action commitments. From the United Nations General Assembly week to the final pre-COP meeting, last month was an important time to build momentum... More>>


UN: Global Leaders Set To Act To Increase Energy Access While Reducing Emissions At First UN Energy Summit In 40 Years

Significant new commitments for financing clean energy, increasing renewables and improving access to electricity are expected to be announced on 24 September at the UN High-level Dialogue on Energy... More>>