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Cablegate: Referendum Called "Historic" by Government Media;

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

UNCLAS CAIRO 004126

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC PGOV KPAO EG
SUBJECT: REFERENDUM CALLED "HISTORIC" BY GOVERNMENT MEDIA;
SATELLITE TV AND WEBSITES FOCUS ON VIOLENCE: EGYPTIAN
MEDIA THEMES, MAY 23 TO 30


1. May 25 referendum on constitutional amendment to change
presidential election process - TV: Egyptian TV coverage
showed enthusiastic voters casting their ballots and
praising President Mubarak and the referendum throughout
May 25. "We now have true democracy in Egypt and thanks
to our President!" exclaimed an elderly woman on Channel 1.
On the flip side, Egyptians saw coverage on CNN and Al
Arabiya on May 25 and 26 showing pro-government
demonstrators beating opposition Kifaya ("Enough")
protesters. Al Arabiya's May 26 report focused on female
demonstrators who were publicly beaten by pro-government
demonstrators. Al Jazeera showed footage of a ruling
National Democratic Party (NDP) rally, followed by an on-
the-street interview with NDP Secretary General Safwat El
Sherif and a man critical of the referendum, and images of
empty polling stations. While Al Jazeera reported on the
violence against opposition demonstrators, it showed no
images.

2. May 25 referendum print press: The front pages of
the pro-government press on May 26 led with headlines
praising Egypt's "historic referendum" and with photos of
Mubarak and leading NDP members casting their ballots.
However, English-language weekly Cairo Magazine published
on May 26 photos of Kifaya demonstrators beaten by pro-
government demonstrators, along with reports that "pro-
Mubarak demonstrators, apparently led by NDP officials,
were young men and boys from lower income neighborhoods.
Some admitted to reporters that they had received
incentives to participate, including LE20, a quarter-
portion of grilled chicken and a soft drink." (Note: LE20
20 Egyptian pounds amounts to $3.50 U.S. End note.)
Several Egyptian and western media contacts noted to PA
officer that the May 25 organized violence against female
protestors was the first they had seen or heard of in
Egypt. "The referendum was one step forward, and another
step backward," stated one Egyptian reporter, who writes
for a pro-government newspaper.

3. May 25 referendum - commentary: Opposition Al Wafd
(circulation: 180,000) continued its critical commentary on
the referendum, calling it "undemocratic" and criticizing
the NDP for its "bullying of the Egyptian people" in May 29
commentaries. Commentary in the pro-government press
praised the referendum, though pro-government Al Ahram
(circulation: 750,000) did publish on May 29 a column by
reformer Salama Ahmed Salama who criticized the government
for its "rigidity" and the arrest of demonstrators also and
the pro-government media for failing to have been "neutral
l
and impartial." Meanwhile on the Internet, Egyptian weblog
writers bloggers reported on and were critical of the
referendum violence. On May 26 the author of "The Arabist
Network" blog (found online at arabist.net) posted images
of Kifaya demonstrators being beaten at the Journalists'
Syndicate and reported on empty downtown polling stations,
commenting: "One thing is for sure Egypt looked bad."

4. First Lady Laura Bush visits Egypt: The First Lady's
May 23 24 visit to Egypt garnered front page coverage in
the pro-government press and TV, with her remarks praising
Mubarak and his government for democratic reforms
dominating headlines on May 24. Few commentaries about the
First Lady's visit were published. Writing about her visit
on May 29, a commentator in Al Ahram repeated the oft-heard
mantra that "the image of the U.S. will not be improved
unless it changes its policy towards the Palestinians and
Iraq," while praising the First Lady's statements during
ing
her visit to Egypt as "frank and honest."

GRAY

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