INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Media Minister Meets with Rfi Reps to Discuss

Published: Mon 2 Nov 2009 06:53 AM
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DE RUEHKI #0980 3060653
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020653Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0265
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1284
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
UNCLAS KINSHASA 000980
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SENSITIVE
E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KPAO PREL PHUM CG
SUBJECT: MEDIA MINISTER MEETS WITH RFI REPS TO DISCUSS
TO DISCUSS AUTHORIZATION TO BROADCASTING IN DRC
REF: (A) Kinshasa 426; (B) Kinshasa 448;
(C) Kinshasa 854, (D) Kinshasa 890;
(E) Kinshasa 969
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PROTECT ACCORDINGLY
NOFORN
1. (SBU) Summary: Following the July 26 shutdown of Radio France
International's (RFI) signal throughout the Democratic Republic of
the Congo (DRC) as a result of controversial reports by an RFI
journalist (see refs a and b), French diplomats and representatives
of RFI have met with GDRC officials in recent days to resolve the
dispute and re-establish the broadcast signal. The latest meeting
shows some signs of progress, and a planned meeting between the
president of RFI and DRC President Joseph Kabila, might possibly
break the impasse. End summary.
2. (SBU) On October 27, PDO spoke with a French Embassy Official
concerning the October 21 and 23 meetings between RFI representative
Jean-Karim Fall and the Minister of Media and Information Lambert
Mende. While not a participant in the meetings, our contact was
fully briefed by a colleague who was present. The atmosphere was
described as "not very friendly, but neither was it very tense."
Mende was still upset about the reporting of RFI correspondent
Ghislaine Dupont (expelled by the GDRC for a history of criticism of
the Kabila government), complaining of her biased reports and
talking of a "conspiracy" between her and unnamed others to
undermine the armed forces' (FARDC) morale and hinder efforts
against rebel groups in the Eastern DRC (see refs c and d). As in
previous discussions on this issue, Mende insisted that RFI remove
Dupont. Fall said RFI could not dismiss a journalist at the request
of a government official.
3. (SBU) While discussing the terms for re-establishing the RFI
signal, Mende insisted on credentials authorization under the
military code of justice, as he has with other international
journalists (ref E). Fall said that RFI could not accept an
open-ended agreement on those terms, since the DRC is not a country
in a permanent state of war. Fall particularly objected to a clause
in the accreditation letter that forbids journalists from reporting
information that might "demoralize" the FARDC and make them act
contrary to their duties. He said they might be able to agree to
such terms on a temporary basis, leaving open the possibility that
accreditation terms and legal authority over journalists might be
the subjects of future negotiations.
4. (SBU) Another issue under discussion was the establishment of a
Kinshasa office of RFI, which would serve as both headquarters for
an RFI reporter covering the DRC and a regional bureau for the
broadcaster. Both parties seemed to be in agreement in theory over
the establishment of an RFI bureau in Kinshasa, but have yet to
settle the details. A higher ranking RFI official (probably the
president of French overseas broadcasting, Christine Okrent) will
visit Kinshasa for future negotiations. This next round of meetings
would be with President Kabila himself, at a date yet to be
determined. French diplomats considered the recent meetings to have
been constructive, and are guardedly hopeful that the meetings with
Kabila will resolve the impasse between RFI and the GDRC.
5. (SBU) Comment: While progress may have been made toward
re-establishing RFI's signal, such proress comes at great cost to
Qre-establishing RFI'ssignal, such progress comes at great cost to
press freedom: it would have to agree to terms that would make it
difficult to even report from conflict zones in the eastern DRC.
Minister Mende has made clear to international journalists (ref e)
that his definition of what news reports are "demoralizing" to the
FARDC is broadly-based and could result in journalists being
subjected to criminal charges. While the restoration of RFI's
signal would certainly be a step forward in terms of press freedom,
and a welcome improvement to the DRC's media environment, the cost
is too high. End comment.
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