Cablegate: Critical Coverage of Secretary Rice's Visit In
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 004882
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO IZ SU EG
SUBJECT: CRITICAL COVERAGE OF SECRETARY RICE'S VISIT IN
INDEPENDENT PRESS; PRAISE FOR PEACEKEEPERS TO SUDAN:
EGYPTIAN MEDIA THEMES, JUNE 19 TO 26
REF: CAIRO 4709
1. Summary: Secretary Rice's visit to Egypt continued to
receive positive coverage in the pro-government press;
however, commentary in the opposition and independent press
took a more critical stance. One independent commentator
dismissed the Secretary's calls for democratic reform in
Egypt as the latest "fashion." A stridently anti-American
commentator claimed the U.S. wanted "chaos," not democracy,
in Egypt. All independent newspapers offered impartial,
though varying, accounts of the Secretary's visit with
Egyptian opposition leaders. Reports of violence in Iraq
appeared in print and TV media coverage on June 25,
alongside further criticism of the U.S. military presence.
The pro-government press highlighted Egypt's hosting of a
Sudanese peace accord signing ceremony and the deployment
of Egyptian troops to Sudan, complete with images of
President Mubarak inspecting the troops. Egypt's private
educational system came in for criticism on a popular
Egyptian TV program for relying too much on computers in
the classroom. End summary.
2. Secretary Rice's visit to Egypt: While the pro-
government media continued put a positive spin on Secretary
Rice's visit to Egypt (reftel), the opposition and
independent press weighed in later in the week with
critical coverage. The chief editor of opposition
Nasserite Al Araby (circulation: 20,000) on June 26 called
the Secretary's June 20 American University in Cairo (AUC)
speech a "political prescription" and asked that Egyptians
themselves "demand democracy and freedom," since the U.S.
was "only looking out for its own interests" and "the
Mubarak regime wants to rule forever." The editor of anti-
American weekly Al-Osboa (circulation: 50,000) criticized
Secretary Rice's visit, claiming, "America does not want
freedom, but agents in every alley and street. America
wants chaos. When Dr. Rice talked at AUC, we knew she
would not apologize for the desecration of the Koran."
Meanwhile, the founder and editor of weekly independent Al
Fagr (circulation: 50,000) claimed on June 26 that "the
democracy which the Americans are calling for is like the
newest 'look' in fashion. It is an imported democracy."
However, another Al Fagr commentator gave mild praise to
the Secretary's speech; while an Al Fagr article profiled
several Egyptian democracy advocates who agreed that
international observers were needed for Egyptian elections
this fall. All independent newspapers offered varying,
impartial accounts of the Secretary's meeting with Egyptian
3. Iraq: The violence in Iraq reemerged in the pro-
government media on June 25. The front page of Al Ahram
pictured President Bush and Iraqi PM Ibrahim Al Jaafari at
a White House press conference under the headline: "One
Marine dead and 19 injured in Fallujah in a dangerous
relapse of violence for American forces in Iraq." An
unsigned editorial in Al Gomhouriya on June 25 attacked the
Brussels International Conference on Iraq for "not
pressuring the U.S. to announce a timetable for its
withdrawal from Iraq." Former Iraqi PM Ayad Allawi's June
25 visit to Egypt was widely covered the following day. Al
Ahram reported on June 26 that, as a result of Allawi's
visit, "Al Azhar's Islamic research center will issue a
statement urging all Iraqis to support their government."
4. Sudan: Government-controlled media gave extensive
front page and TV coverage to Egypt's hosting of the
signing of a "Sudanese national reconciliation agreement"
on June 19 and the deployment of Egyptian peacekeeping
troops to Sudan on June 22. An unsigned editorial in pro-
government Al Gomhouriya (circulation: 500,000) on June 19
compared the Egyptian government's bringing together of
various Sudanese factions to its efforts in Palestine,
stating, "Egypt seeks the unity and interests of all
Arabs." Egyptian TV reported on June 22 that Mubarak told
Egyptian UN peacekeeping troops bound for southern Sudan,
"Your mission is another contribution to a brother nation."
Front page photos in the pro-government press on June 22
showed Mubarak shaking troops' hands and waving to them
from atop a truck while he surveyed them.
5. Egyptian universities not among world's top 500: Dr.
Nawal El Degwi, an education expert and founder of the
private Modern Sciences and Arts University in Egypt,
appeared on Channel 2's popular program Al Bayt Baytak
("Make Yourself at Home") on June 26 to criticize the
Egyptian private education system. She pointed out that no
Egyptian universities were among the world's best 500
universities. "Our private educational system relies on
computers, which causes laziness among students," Dr. El
Degwi stated, claiming that developed countries need to
sell surplus computers cheaply to countries such as Egypt,
making them easy for private schools to acquire, which then
depend too heavily on them for classroom instruction.