INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Three Tv Stations Suspended After Broadcasts Raise Tensions

Published: Fri 18 Aug 2006 10:37 AM
VZCZCXRO4234
OO RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #1302 2301037
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181037Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WAHDC IMMEDIATE 4620
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 KINSHASA 001302
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KPAO CG
SUBJECT: THREE TV STATIONS SUSPENDED AFTER BROADCASTS RAISE TENSIONS
OVER JULY 27 PILLAGING IN KINSHASA
Ref: A. Kinshasa 1995
B. Kinshasa 240
Sensitive But Unclassified. Not for Internet distribution.
1. (SBU) Summary: Three television stations were suspended from
broadcasting August 17 by order of the High Media Authority (HAM).
The three are state-owned RTNC1, the MLC-affiliated CCTV, and the
religious station RTAE, all of which have been showing violent
scenes, notably from the pillaging which took place in Kinshasa on
July 27. Tensions, already high on the eve of the announcement of
provisional election results, have been exacerbated by these
broadcasts, which were thankfully interrupted by the HAM. End
Summary.
The HAM Order to Suspend
------------------------
2. (U) Issued on August 16, the High Media Authority's order accuses
RTNC1 and RTAE of repeatedly showing shocking scenes filmed in
Kinshasa on July 27 during the pillaging which took place on the
margins of a large political rally for presidential candidate
Jean-Pierre Bemba (ref A). The most revolting scenes, according to
the HAM decision, are the deaths, after torture, of police officers
at the hands of the pillagers. CCTV, owned by VP Bemba, is fingered
for showing video footage on August 14 and 15 of supposed recent
police excesses and the bombing of Equateur province in 1998.
Leading up to the HAM Decision
------------------------------
3. (U) The pillaging on July 27 destroyed the offices of the High
Media Authority and the National Human Rights Observatory (ONDH),
which shared a building near the Tata Raphael Stadium where VP Bemba
held his rally. Also targeted for pillage that day was the nearby
Church of the Eternal Army of Pastor Sony "Rockman" Kafuta, which
owns the RTAE television station, considered to be pro-Kabila.
4. (SBU) Not mentioned in the HAM decision, but observed during the
RTNC1 broadcasts, was Interior Minister Theophile Mbemba's eulogy at
the funeral of the police officers killed on July 27. During his
speech, Mbemba blamed the murders on the MLC party of Jean-Pierre
Bemba. The minister is a member of the pro-Kabila PPRD party.
5. (SBU) On August 9, the HAM suspended live call-in shows of a
political nature, since potentially inflammatory comments by callers
could not be filtered. It also suspended live reports from
political rallies and demonstrations for essentially the same
reason. Most of the representatives of the DRC's various
professional journalistic organizations, including Journalists in
Danger (JED), expressed their opposition to this form of censorship.
During an August 17 meeting of the International Committee to
Accompany the Transition (CIAT), members generally agreed that while
caution must be exercised in any action that restricts press
freedom, the HAM suspension of the three stations was fully
justified.
6. (U) In February, the HAM suspended all political reporting by
RTNC for 48 hours, because the state-owned television station gave
wall-to-wall, uninterrupted coverage of the pro-Kabila PPRD party
convention (ref B).
Comment
-------
7. (SBU) There should be little opposition to the HAM decision to
suspend the showing of what are truly revolting images of torture
and murder - the main purpose of which is to incite retribution and
revenge. All eyes are on the announcement, scheduled for August 20,
of the Electoral Commission's preliminary results, particularly on
the national percentages garnered by the two leading contenders,
Kabila and Bemba. Tensions are already high enough without such
war-like images on television screens. The HAM has done the right
thing, but the damage may already have been done.
MEECE
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media