The Tzvangirai, Mugabe, MSM and Wikileaks dance

The deluge of Wikileaks cables bring moral considerations. What is released? Is anybody at risk? Who takes responsibility?

This discussion at WLCentral examines the issues in Zimbabwe and Morgan Tzvangirai’s meetings with US embassy officials. He is potentially facing treason charges. Where does Wikileaks fit into all this?

If this is actually the method by which the cables are published, then it will be important to find which media partner first published 09HARARE1004. A glance at the datestamp for 09HARARE1004 reveals it was published on the 8th of December, 2010. The only publication making reference to 09HARARE1004 as early as this, is a publication of the full cable in The Guardian. The Guardian’s title for the cable is “US embassy cables: Tsvangirai tells US Mugabe is increasingly ‘old, tired and poorly briefed’“. It identifies gossip about Mugabe at the salient content of the cable, and entirely fails to identify the importance of the material on international sanctions against Zimbabwe, which is the material which allegedly incriminates Tsvangirai.

7. (C) On the subject of Mugabe himself, Tsvangirai said that in his recent meetings, though Mugabe seems mentally acute, he appears old and very tired. He comes to many meetings unbriefed and unaware of the content. It appears that he is being managed by hardliners. Tsvangirai said his goal now is to find a way to ‘manage’ Mugabe himself. One way, perhaps, would be to give him something to give his hardliners. Precisely what that something is, he said, is something he is still wrestling with.

If the procedure for publication outline above is accurate, and the dates seem to suggest it is, the cable was published in full on the Guardian website before it was ever published by Wikileaks. It was released as part of a group of cables in support of an article in the Guardian by Xan Rice, which treats the Harare cables merely as a quote mine for salacious opinions voiced in diplomatic confidence about Mugabe. The article is called “WikiLeaks cables reveal differing views of ‘crazy’, ‘charming’ Robert Mugabe“. This batch of cables, and the Guardian’s choice of emphasis in their release, actually helped contribute to the pernicious article of common wisdom that “the cables disclose only gossip about world leaders.”