US embassy questioned Daily News’s credibility


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The Daily News which had become the nation’s biggest daily before it was banned in 2003 reported on 9 July 2003 that 3 000 Movement for Democratic Change supporters had marched through the streets of downtown Harare carrying placards criticizing South African President Thabo Mbeki and attempted to gather at Africa Unity Square.

But according to a cable released by Wikileaks, embassy officials established that the number of demonstrators was between 15 and 20.

“The blatant discrepancy between the number of demonstrators who actually showed up, and the number reported in the Daily News does nothing for the credibility of that paper in reporting on charged political events,” the cable said.

 

Full cable:

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Viewing cable 03HARARE1398, RIOT POLICE BREAK UP SMALL DEMONSTRATION, HARARE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1398

2003-07-09 09:06

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 001398

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

DS/OP/AF

DAKAR AND PRETORIA FOR A/S KANSTEINER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2013

TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: RIOT POLICE BREAK UP SMALL DEMONSTRATION, HARARE

MAYOR RELEASED

 

REF: A. HARARE 1381

B. HARARE 863

 

Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

Summary:

——–

 

1. (C) On July 8 police stopped about 15 to 20 MDC members

who attempted to march from Africa Unity Square in downtown

Harare to the US Embassy to deliver a petition. While the

Daily News reported the number of demonstrators to be about

3000, reports from witnesses put the number at 15 – 20.

 

2. (U) On July 8, Harare Executive Mayor Elias Mudzuri was

re-arrested, held in a Harare Central Police Station cell for

seven hours and released without charge. End Summary.

 

Non-Demonstration

—————–

 

3. (C) On July 8 about 15 to 20 MDC members attempted to

march from Africa Unity Square in downtown Harare to the US

Embassy to deliver a petition criticizing South African

President Thabo Mbeki for lack of progress in resolving the

Zimbabwe crisis, and calling on the USG to pressure the GOZ

to agree to dialogue with the MDC. Riot police broke up the

march before it started by beating and arresting several

would-be marchers. According to march organizer Dennis

Murerwa, special assistant to MDC National Chairman Isaac

Matongo, the march was an MDC-organized mass action event

primarily done for publicity, rather than to deliver the

petition to the US Embassy. Murerwa said the MDC leadership

sanctioned plans for ongoing mass actions, however may not

have been aware of specific plans for this march. The

Embassy was not contacted, and has not yet received the

petition, but Murerwa promised to deliver it to Poloff on

July 9.

 

4. (SBU) A Daily News article on July 9 reported that about

3000 demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown

Harare carrying placards criticizing Mbeki and attempted to

gather at Africa Unity Square. RSO and RSOfsn spoke with a

street vendor in Africa Unity Square on July 8 who reported

that only about 15 – 20 demonstrators were involved. A

different source also reported to the Ambassador that the

number gathered was more like 15 – 20.

 

Harare Mayor Released

———————

 

5. (U) On July 8, Harare Executive Mayor Elias Mudzuri was

re-arrested, held in a Harare Central Police Station cell for

seven hours and released without charge. According to a

report in the Daily News, and Mudzuri’s lawyer Beatrice

Mtetwa, Mudzuri intends to go to his office on July 9 for the

third consecutive day to face arrest. Minister of Local

Government, Ignatius Chombo suspended the mayor in April 2003

for alleged misconduct. Mudzuri, the MDC, and the Combined

Harare Residents Association claimed the suspension was

illegal, and the matter is pending in court (Refs A and B).

 

Comment:

——–

 

6. (C) The blatant discrepancy between the number of

demonstrators who actually showed up, and the number reported

in the Daily News does nothing for the credibility of that

paper in reporting on charged political events. End Comment.

SULLIVAN

(27 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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