Cablegate: Iraqi Journalists Vent Their Frustrations On
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002930
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC PREL KPAO IZ EG
SUBJECT: IRAQI JOURNALISTS VENT THEIR FRUSTRATIONS ON
EGYPTIAN COUNTERPARTS, BUT DECLINE TO BE QUOTED
Sensitive but unclassified. Do not publish on the
Internet. Please protect accordingly.
REF: CAIRO 1859
1. (SBU) Summary: At a backyard reception for a group of
visiting Iraqi journalists, Embassy staff witnessed a
spirited discussion among the Iraqis and invited Egyptian
journalists over the shortcomings of Egyptian media
reporting on Iraq. The lively interaction between the two
groups of journalists was positive in that it increased
Egyptian journalists' knowledge of the situation in Iraq.
However, further Public Affairs impact of the event was
limited, as the Iraqis refused to be photographed by the
Egyptians or to be identified in news articles. End
2. (SBU) On Thursday evening, March 31, PA Counselor
hosted a backyard reception in honor of a dozen, mostly
young, Iraqi journalists in Egypt for a 4-week training
program at the American University in Cairo (AUC), funded
by the UN Development Program with support from Reuters.
Also invited were a number of their AUC professors and a
mix of local print journalists. Although the ostensible
purpose of the event was to welcome the Iraqis and to
demonstrate USG interest in and support for their training,
it was also planned as an outreach program for introducing
the Iraqis to younger, working-level Egyptian journalists,
whose reporting on Iraq to date has been generally negative
and critical of the U.S. role in Iraq.
3. (SBU) Also attending were Saad Ridha, the Iraqi Charge
d'Affaires in Cairo and Salah Nasrawi, an experienced Iraqi
wire service journalist, now working in AP's Cairo bureau.
Among the Iraqi journalists was Adnan Qahtan Kareem, a
former admiral/chief of the Iraqi Naval staff, mainly
educated in the former USSR.
4. (SBU) The Iraqi journalists initially came to the
attention of the Embassy through a PA officer who had
previously served in Iraq. All were invited via several
journalists that PA officers had met, except that these
intermediaries shortstopped the invitations to two of their
number who, we were told, "couldn't be trusted" not to
publicize the group's participation in an Embassy event and
jeopardize the safety of all once back in Iraq.
5. (SBU) We expected a lively discussion: "All of us are
tired of hearing Egyptians talk about the 'glorious Iraqi
resistance,'" one of the Iraqis told us beforehand, "(it's)
full of terrorists and criminals, who kill Iraqi
journalists! Egyptian journalists should know better."
Another Iraqi expressed his frustration this way: "Even
after we explain to them how this 'resistance' is killing
innocent Iraqis, Egyptian journalists we meet tell us that
we are American agents -- or that we don't know what we're
talking about. How can they say this when they haven't
visited Iraq?!" In the end, we were not disappointed --
the visiting Iraqis were more than willing to vent their
frustrations with what they freely characterized to their
local counterparts as misleading and inaccurate Egyptian
media reporting on Iraq.
6. (SBU) Asked for their reactions after the event, the
Iraqis were generally upbeat on the value of reaching out
to Egyptians. "(They) listened to us and asked good
questions," remarked one of the Iraqis. "One Egyptian
reporter had even been to Iraq, and he explained to the
other Egyptians how things (in Iraq) really are," observed
another. (Note: The Egyptian journalist mentioned went to
Iraq on a PA travel grant from Embassy Cairo reported
reftel. End note.) All the Iraqis we heard from agreed
that there remains great misunderstanding between Iraqis
and Egyptians, as well as other Arabs. "Only by meeting
and talking like this can we come to some understanding,"
stated one, "but Arabs have to come to Iraq to see for
themselves. They need to think about what the word
'resistance' really means."
7. (SBU) Comment: Even as we hope to have other
opportunities like this to bring Egyptians and Iraqis
together, we need to keep in mind the distrust the Iraqis
have for each other. As already noted, two of the
journalists did not receive their invitations because their
colleagues considered them likely informers. Additionally,
although they used their own cameras to take souvenir
photos with their American hosts, the Iraqis uniformly
refused to be photographed by the Egyptian journalists
present or to have their names or photos published in news
articles. While happy to set the record straight about the
situation in Iraq, the visitors felt too threatened to be
identified in even the Egyptian media. Although we would
have appreciated a wider airing of the candid views
expressed that night, we need to be mindful of the security
concerns of our Iraqi program participants. End comment.
8. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.