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Cablegate: Critics Accuse Ndp of Using "Thugs" And

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




E.O. 12958: N/A

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: While the pro-government press was
praising the May 25 referendum, independent and opposition
commentators criticized what they considered poor media
coverage and accused ruling National Democratic Party (NDP)
members of acting like "thugs" and "mercenaries." One
commentator likened the government-owned media's referendum
coverage to that of the "Nasser era." A female journalist,
who was assaulted during referendum day violence,
confronted an NDP member in a heated exchange on live TV.
In other news, two well-known opposition papers reported on
June 5 that Embassy Cairo was recruiting spies through a
job listing published in Al Ahram to fill a vacancy in the
Economic political section. End summary.

2. (U) May 25 referendum aftermath - coverage: The June
3 front page of pro-government Al Ahram (circulation:
750,000) highlighted a statement by President Mubarak that
Egyptian presidential elections later this year will be
"honest and free" and that there would be "an investigation
of the violent events on referendum day." The same day, Al
Ahram claimed that democracy would be "Mubarak's heritage
to the world," and reported on President Bush's phone call
to Mubarak, during which President Bush allegedly said that
Egypt's democracy would be a "model to the Middle East."
All newspapers reported on June 1 that the Press Syndicate
forwarded to the Public Prosecutor a complaint about
violent acts committed against journalists covering
demonstrations on May 25.

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3. (U) May 25 referendum aftermath - commentary: While
pro-government commentary on the violence was virtually
non-existent - one commentator in pro-government Al Akhbar
(circulation: 800,000) did claim on May 31 that the
violence was "regrettable" - the opposition and independent
press had much to say. Opposition Al Wafd (circulation:
180,000) focused its criticism on the Egyptian state-
controlled media. "The May 25 referendum propaganda
campaign was like that of the Nasser era media!" railed Al
Wafd Editor-in-chief Abbas Tarabeely on June 4. A
commentator in independent Al Masry Al Youm (circulation:
20,000) on May 31 accused the NDP of using "thugs" and
"mercenaries" against its opponents. Another commentator
in independent Nahdet Masr (circulation: 20,000) on May 31
condemned "the harassment of women" and "violence by NDP
members" during the referendum. On June 5 the Editor-in-
chief of popular independent weekly Sawt Al Umma
(circulation: 50,000) lamented, "The Egyptian security
apparatus has hijacked our country. Egyptians do not want
to live under the shoes of the Ministry of Interior and
thugs!" Meanwhile, Egyptian satellite TV channel "Orbit"
hosted live on June 1 a heated debate between a female
journalist, Nawal Aly, who was beaten while covering the
referendum, and NDP member and journalist Dr. Magdi Alam.
Aly accused Alam of inciting violence, while Alam claimed
that Aly had allowed herself to be "used" by members of the
Kifaya ("Enough") movement.

4. (SBU) U.S. Embassy Cairo recruiting spies through the
press?: On June 2, Al Masry Al Youm published a short
article on its front page claiming that unnamed "political
observers" believed that an Embassy Cairo job advertisement
for a new political section specialist, published in Al
Ahram on May 29, was, in fact, "a call for Egyptians to
gather information on their country and spy against it."
(Note: Half the article was devoted to a PA officer's on-
the-record denial of the allegation. End note.) On June
5, two more articles appeared - a front-page story in
opposition Nasserite Al Araby (circulation: 20,000) and a
Page 2 story in Nasserite, anti-American Al-Osboa'
(circulation: 70,000) - both repeating Al Masry Al Youm's
claim, without quoting a source of the accusation or the
Embassy's denial.



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