Cablegate: Well-Known Journalist Launches New Newspaper In

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: Al Fagr ("The Dawn"), the latest
weekly independent newspaper in Egypt, published its first
edition on June 4. The newspaper's founder and editor,
Adel Hamouda, stated on Egyptian TV that Al Fagr "aims to
improve the state of Egyptian journalism," while privately
telling a PA FSN that he was taking advantage of the more
permissive media environment in Egypt to address
controversial issues. Counting on his reputation and
government connections, Hamouda hopes to duplicate the
financial success he saw at independent weekly Sawt Al Umma
("Voice of the Nation") while working as an editor there.
The first edition of Al Fagr touched on several
controversial issues, such as religion and corruption.
However, to ensure success, Hamouda will likely avoid taboo
topics, such as criticizing President Mubarak personally.
End summary.

2. (SBU) The first issue of Egyptian weekly Al Fagr ("The
Dawn") hit newsstands on June 4. Al Fagr's founder and
Editor-in-chief, Adel Hamouda, appeared on Egyptian Channel
2's popular program Al Bayt Al Baytak ("Make Yourself at
Home") on June 4 to publicize Al Fagr. "The newspaper aims
to improve the state of Egyptian journalism" and "give
voice to a new generation of reporters," Hamouda explained.
Hamouda told a PA FSN on June 2 that he intends to take
advantage of the current environment of increased openness
and reform in Egypt to bring controversial subjects into
the public debate. He also stated that Al Fagr's "formula"
for success would be based on three things: "Sex, sports,
and religion." (Note: Hamouda still writes a column for
pro-government daily Al Ahram (circulation: 750,000), and
established his reputation as an editor with liberal weekly
Rose Al Youssef (circulation: 50,000). End note.)

3. (SBU) Hamouda told a PA FSN in May that he was leaving
the popular independent weekly Sawt Al Umma (circulation:
50,000) after a falling-out over money. Hamouda reported
that Sawt Al Umma's Editor-in-chief and owner, Essam Fahmy,
earned eight million Egyptian pounds during the past year,
yet did not give Hamouda or his staff a bonus for their
work. Hamouda, seeing the profit to be made from Sawt Al
Umma's hard-hitting and controversy-courting coverage,
decided to start his own newspaper. He received permission
from the government earlier this year to do so, noting that
his biggest challenge was convincing the GOE that Al Fagr
would not be "anti-Mubarak," but "a benign, liberal
newspaper which would stand up against corruption and
terrorism, and call for a sound, democratic system."

4. (U) Heavy on editorials and commentaries, and light on
news reporting, Al Fagr's first edition, at 28 pages,
confronts several controversial issues, touching on
government corruption and religious themes. For example, a
feature on page 4 profiled allegations that top Egyptian
government officials are "monopolizing 500,000 jobs" to
give to their favorites; while a full-page article on page
8 profiled IMF allegations of financial corruption against
the Egyptian government. (Note: Neither article named any
names. End note.) A smaller article on page 9 reported on
nine Coptic monks in Fayoum who lodged a complaint against
Pope Shenouda for unfair treatment within their monastery.
The newspaper's banner graphic is that of a young woman
cheering in a crowd of people waving Egyptian flags, with
the words above her head: "Al Fagr: The Voice of

5. (SBU) Comment: Hamouda, having witnessed Sawt Al
Umma's financial success, is counting on his reputation as
a journalist and his relationship with the Egyptian
Government to ensure success. Hamouda will likely model
his newspaper after Sawt Al Umma, not shying away from
controversial topics and encouraging a lively writing style
from his reporters. But Al Fagr will also likely not cross
government-established 'red lines' for the media - for
example, naming names of corrupt government officials and
attacking Mubarak personally. End comment.



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