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Cablegate: Family-Friendly Taxes and Doctors Without

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

UNCLAS CAIRO 004430

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO EG
SUBJECT: FAMILY-FRIENDLY TAXES AND DOCTORS WITHOUT
"LIMITS": EGYPTIAN MEDIA THEMES, JUNE 6 TO 12

REF: CAIRO 4127

1. Summary: The pro-government media highlighted a new
tax law, signed by President Mubarak on June 8. TV talk
shows hosted a parade of government spokesmen and financial
experts who commented positively on the law over the
weekend. Meanwhile, the opposition and independent press
continued to criticize the government over the May 25
referendum, with the editor of a popular weekly attacking
several leading political figures by name. The print media
began to openly comment on rumored changes in the
leadership of the pro-government press - the topic of
discussion among journalists for the past month. A popular
cartoonist attacked high medical costs in Egypt by
lampooning doctors in a series of cartoons. End summary.

2. New tax law: Pro-government press and TV turned the
spotlight away from the May 25 referendum and onto a new
tax bill, signed by President Mubarak on June 8. The
headline in pro-government Al Ahram (circulation: 750,000)
on June 9 read: "Mubarak Signs New Tax Law Guaranteeing
Higher Income and Standard of Living to All Egyptian
Families." Highly positive (and lengthy) TV coverage
showed Mubarak signing the new tax law in the presence of
PM Nazif and other government leaders. Government
spokesmen and financial experts appeared on Egyptian TV
talk shows during the weekend to publicize the law. "This
new law is a cultural leap. It establishes a new code of
trust based on mutual respect between the taxpayer and the
government," stated the Chairman of the Taxation Authority
on Egyptian Channel 1's program "Economic Forum" on June
12. While the opposition press was largely quiet about the
new tax law, one commentator in independent Nahdet Masr
(circulation: 20,000) warned on June 12, "The average
Egyptian now has to pay real taxes and receive real
services."

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3. Criticism of May 25 referendum continues: The Editor-
in-chief of popular, independent weekly Sawt Al Umma
(circulation: 50,000) attacked NDP Secretary General Safwat
El Sherif and Speaker of the Parliament Fathi Sorour,
writing on June 12: "[They] will try to remain in power
until they get the last drop of Egypt's wealth. To bring
about reform, these men should retire from public life."
On June 11, a pro-reform commentator in Al Ahram
highlighted President Bush's remarks about ensuring a free
and open election in Egypt, commenting, "Egypt should
implement real democracy to improve our image abroad."
Opposition Al Wafd (circulation: 180,000) continued its
critical coverage of the government's reform efforts by
publishing a commentary by Islamist and regular Al Ahram
contributor Fahmy Huweidy on June 10. Huweidy wrote that
Egypt was "politically dead" and that this year's scheduled
presidential elections would be "a farce."

4. Changes in pro-government press: The print media
continued to buzz with rumors of a shake-up in the pro-
government press (reftel). A commentator writing in Al
Ahram one of the alleged targets of a shake-up - stated
on June 7, "The criteria for choosing leadership and
management according to their loyalty is not acceptable."
The Editor-in-chief of independent Al Masry Al Youm
(circulation: 20,000) complained in a June 12 commentary
that, though changes were expected in the pro-government
press, "nothing has changed." A commentator in the same
newspaper wrote on June 8, "The government should make a
statement about the upcoming changes in the (pro-
government) press leadership and not leave us to sink in a
sea of rumors."


5. Doctors without "limits": Popular cartoonist Mustafa
Hussein of pro-government Al Akhbar (circulation: 800,000)
published a series of cartoons June 5 12 criticizing
doctors' fees in Egypt. The first cartoon in the series,
published on June 5, shows a doctor escorting an old man to
his clinic with exorbitant prices listed on the wall.
"Doctors without borders," says the doctor, playing on the
Arabic word "hudud" ("borders" or "limits") to joke about
his prices. Another cartoon in the series, published on
June 12, quotes a doctor talking to his friend (with an
exorbitant clinic visit fee posted on the wall behind him):
"I feel so sorry for the patients that I give them
anesthesia before taking their money."

GRAY
Y

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