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Cablegate: Unprecedented Openness?: Egyptian Media has Free

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

1. Summary: A surprisingly large amount of Egyptian media
commentary critical of Egyptian society and the government
has appeared since the July 23 Sharm El Sheikh bombings.
While some commentators continue to blame Israel for
terrorism in the region, many commentators have pointed
fingers squarely at their own country nd in pro-
government media outlets. One commentator on Egyptian TV
on July 27 criticized "a culture gone wrong" in Egypt,
while others blamed unemployment, poverty, and clerics
discredited by government interference. While surprising
in its directness and openness, the commentary reflects
criticisms about the government and Egyptian society
frequently heard by Emboffs from their Egyptian
counterparts. The government is likely permitting such
criticism in order to allow commentators to recover from
the shock of the Sharm bombings. End summary.

2. While opposition Al Wafd (circulation: 70,000) and
several commentators in the independent press continue to
blame Israeli policies for terrorism in the region, a large
number of commentaries critical of the Egyptian government
have appeared in the government-controlled media in the
wake of the Sharm terrorist attacks. Characteristic of
some of the no-holds barred criticism and self-reflection
was a July 29 column by Abdel Qader Shohaib, the pro-
government editor of weekly magazine Al-Musawwar
(circulation: 50,000): "There is no use in denying it e
incited the crime of Sharm El Sheikh," Shohaib wrote. "The
bombers are a product of a society that produces extremists
with fossilized thought. Regrettably, they are incited by
mosques, newspapers, and TV images ll of which are
controlled by the government." Several commentators on
Egyptian TV talk shows the evening of July 27 pointed to
'faulty' religion, with one independent commentator noting
on Channel 1's program Halat Hiwar ("State of Discussion")
that "wrong religious concepts spread when institutions
such as Al-Azhar lose their credibility and the sheikhs are
government-appointed." An Islamic commentator on the same
program remarked, "Unemployment and poverty spread
depression among our youth, who then turn into time bombs."
And a third criticized "a culture gone wrong" in Egypt,
singling out "poverty, unemployment, and a lack of freedom"
as terrorism's cause. On Channel 2's program Bidoun Raqaba
("Without Censorship") on July 27, a commentator argued
that "a lack of strong political parties does not allow
people to express frustrations through legal channels,"
leading some to commit acts of violence.

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3. Similar comments critical of Egyptian society, the
government, and Islamic extremists in Egypt have appeared
on website bulletin boards and chat rooms hough again,
along with some comments critical of Israel for having
given rise to terrorism in the region. One mid-level pro-
government newspaper reporter claimed to sum up the
feelings of his colleagues to a PA officer on July 26:
"While U.S. and Israeli actions make people angry, they
would already be angry without the U.S. or Israel ever
existing. Why? Because we are cursed by an unresponsive
and corrupt government on one hand and extremists who kill
Muslims on the other. People want neither and are starting
to shout about it after the Sharm attacks."

4. Comment: This outburst of self-criticism in the
Egyptian media, though surprising for its openness, is not
uncommon to Emboffs used to hearing criticism of U.S.
policies from Egyptian counterparts mixed with criticism of
their own government and society in private meetings. The
shock of Egyptian envoy to Iraq Ehab El Sherif's murder and
the Sharm El Sheikh terrorist bombings have likely
encouraged many commentators to vent their frustrations and
anger publicly, and the government appears to be also
accepting this criticism in the pro-government media. End


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