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Cablegate: Cairo Magazine Distribution Held Up Over

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

UNCLAS CAIRO 004256

SIPDIS

LONDON FOR SREEBNY

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO EG
SUBJECT: CAIRO MAGAZINE DISTRIBUTION HELD UP OVER

REFERENDUM COVERAGE

REF: CAIRO 1061

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: Apparently objecting to coverage of
referendum-related protests by the English-language weekly
"Cairo Magazine," the Ministry of Information (MOI) withheld
permission to distribute the June 2 edition of the magazine
for four days. The magazine's staff was never informed by
the MOI why permission was delayed, but has speculated that
it was due to candid coverage of violence by pro-government
protestors during the referendum. While permission to
distribute was finally granted on the evening of June 5, the
Editor-in-chief noted that the delay caused by the MOI has
hurt the magazine's reputation with advertisers and
distributors. End summary.

2. (SBU) Cairo Magazine (circulation: 5,000) is the
reincarnation of Cairo Times, which shut down a year ago
after repeated censorship problems with the MOI that took a
toll on its advertising revenue. Despite its small
circulation, Cairo Magazine tackles controversial issues in
a professional manner that meets international standards.
Cairo Magazine Managing Editor Issandr El Amrani told PA
officer on June 4 that the June 2 edition of the magazine
could not be distributed, since the Ministry of Information
(MOI) had not granted it permission to do so. El Amrani
reported that the MOI appeared to object to the edition's
referendum coverage, which included photos of National
Democratic Party (NDP) supporters assaulting opposition
demonstrators.

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3. (U) The June 2 edition's cover, entitled "Amendment
Approved," carries a photo of two men fighting. The article
in question, "The Day the Gloves Came Off," leads with the
subheading "The violence of the referendum is a bad omen for
the upcoming elections" and blamed NDP supporters for the
violence: "According to witnesses and journalists. the
responsibility for the violence rested on the people
carrying the pro-government banners. NDP counter-
demonstrations formed up in front of the Kifaya
demonstration and then, once security moved out of the way
to let them through, attacked the Kifaya members."

4. (SBU) The magazine was initially given to the MOI for
approval on June 1, but on June 2 an MOI official said it
would need to be sent to Information Minister Anas El Fekki
for his clearance. No further explanation was offered.
When approval to distribute was granted late in the evening
on June 5, no explanation for the delay was given. "It
seems like it was their way of flexing some muscle with us,"
El Amrani told PA officer on June 6.

5. (U) The magazine's website (www.cairomagazine.com),
which posted the June 2 edition on time, explained its
absence from Cairo's streets by saying: "Cairo (Magazine)
apologizes to its regular readers for the delay in the
distribution of the current issue. This delay is outside
our control, as the Ministry of Information has yet to grant
a permit for this issue to be distributed in Egypt."

6. (SBU) When asked why the magazine staff had not removed
the article in question, as happened with an article in
Egypt Today several months ago (reftel), El Amrani
explained, "We have an 'all or nothing' censorship policy.
If the Information Ministry wants to censor an article, they
have to censor the entire magazine. That way, it should be
harder for them to censor us without causing a fuss."

7. (SBU) Comment: Though no explanation was given for the
delay, it seems very likely the MOI wanted to diminish the
impact of Cairo Magazine's upfront reporting on the role the
NDP faithful played in the March 25 violence. Cairo
Magazine's leadership remains optimistic about the
magazine's future issues and relationship with the MOI, but
is concerned that delay tactics such as these could hurt its
relationship with its advertisers and distributors. This is
only the magazine's eleventh issue, and already it is
finding its "all or nothing" censorship policy and its
financial future tested. End Comment.

GRAY

#4256

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