Zimbabwe Diamond Scandal Overlooked

Wikileaks uncovered the story. Why didn't we hear much about it in the news?

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Getty Images

N.Y. Times Public Editor Says Paper Misses the Boat

Perhaps understandably, a court ruling that a Zimbabwean mining executive must pay U.S. $10 million in defamation damages because of comments published by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks did not get much Western news coverage.

Andrew Cranswick, CEO of African Consolidated Resources, allegedly told U.S. diplomats that the country’s spy chief, Happyton Bonyongwe, and other officials were looting diamonds from the country’s diamond fields, according to U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks in 2009.

Cranswick says he never spoke to U.S. embassy officials. Still, Radio France International, which reported the judicial ruling last month, said the judgment was likely to encourage piling on by other officials linked to President Robert Mugabe‘s party. They, too, have launched lawsuits over WikiLeaks.

Closer to home, a military trial at Fort Meade, Md., has begun for Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and classified reports while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010. The cables involved the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as U.S. relations with Third World countries.

Left-wing groups have accused much of the mainstream media, particularly the New York Times, of downplaying the start of Manning’s trial.

On Wednesday, the New York Times public editor agreed. “In failing to send its own reporter to cover the fascinating and important pretrial testimony of Bradley Manning, The New York Times missed the boat,” Margaret Sullivan wrote. “. . . The testimony is dramatic and the overarching issues are important. The Times should be there.” 

The media watch group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting said Tuesday, “These dramatic developments, in particular the testimony from Manning (11/29/12), were mostly unreported in corporate media. The New York Times ran a brief Associated Press wire story (11/30/12). Manning’s story was mentioned by just one of the three big network newscasts (CBS Evening News, 11/29/12). There was a brief mention on the PBS NewsHour (11/30/12), mostly about suicide risk.”

What were these reporters missing? Eliza Gray wrote Wednesday for the New Republic, “Last week, in a Grisham-like courtroom scene, Bradley Manning — the Army private charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of classified war logs and State Department cables to WikiLeaks — testified publicly for the first time since his arrest in May of 2010. For more than five hours, Manning described the two months he spent in a ‘cage’ inside a dark tent in Kuwait and the nine months that followed in 23-hours-a-day solitary confinement on a Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Virginia. In one theatrical moment, Manning got up from the stand and paced inside a 6 by 8 tape outline on the courtroom floor to demonstrate the size of his prison cell. In another, he donned the suicide smock he had to wear.”