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Cablegate: Egypt: Newspapers Strike for Press Freedom

VZCZCXRO3683
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #2982 2811316
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081316Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7113
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS CAIRO 002982

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA AND NEA/IIP
NSC FOR WATERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KAPO PHUM KDEM EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT: NEWSPAPERS STRIKE FOR PRESS FREEDOM

REF: A. CAIRO 2936

B. CAIRO 2896
C. CAIRO 2835

1. (U) Twenty-two independent and opposition newspapers did
not publish on October 7 in protest of recent government
actions against press freedom, including the sentencing of
four editors-in-chief to a year in prison for criticizing
president Mubarak and senior government officials (ref C),
and a separate case against the editor-in-chief of the
independent Al Dustour newspaper for allegedly spreading
false rumors against President Mubarak (ref A). Several
websites, including the Muslim Brotherhood's
"ikwanonline.com" also suspended activities in support of the
press publishing boycott. Government-owned or controlled
newspapers, on the other hand, loudly criticized the decision
not to publish, particularly as it fell on a national holiday
marking the start of Egypt's 1973 war with Israel.

2. (U) According to Jamal Fahmi, chief of the Freedom
Committee at the Egyptian Press Syndicate, "Opting not to go
to print is a civilized, democratic protest against this
glaring aggression on the freedom of the press." Others,
however, saw the ever-present "foreign hand" behind the
protests, with the editor of the government-backed Al
Gomhuria newspaper, Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, claiming in an op-ed
"...some of these (striking) newspapers rely on American
funding and other newspapers are funded by the Muslim
Brotherhood, and therefore have an agenda which is different
from that of the nation." Still others see the stoppage in
the context of wider societal concerns about shrinking
freedoms.

3. (SBU) Comment: Press freedom, once hailed as the
brightest spot on the limited horizon of Egyptian political
reform, has taken some hard knocks lately. Mubarak is
famously on the record (in 2005 and 2006) as saying he would
not use his powers as president to act against those who
"misuse" the freedom of the press, and that no journalist
would be imprisoned for expressing an opinion.
Interestingly, those who filed charges in the case against
the four editors were all members of Mubarak's NDP party.
While Egypt's press remains robust, it appears that the
government's line has moved from "no prison for journalists"
to "journalists must exercise their freedoms responsibly."
JONES

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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