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Cablegate: Egypt's New Press Syndicate Chairman Outlines

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #3543 3611244
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 271244Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7798
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS CAIRO 003543

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NSC STAFF FOR PASCUAL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PHUM PREL EG
SUBJECT: EGYPT'S NEW PRESS SYNDICATE CHAIRMAN OUTLINES
OBJECTIVES

REF: A. CAIRO 3299
B. CAIRO 2835
C. CAIRO 2825

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) We met on December 12 with Makhram Mohamed Ahmed,
the new chairman of Egypt's influential press syndicate (ref
A). Ahmed told us he has two immediate objectives as
chairman; 1) to open a dialogue with the government that will
end the prosecution of journalists, and 2) to enhance the
professionalism of syndicate members. He also expressed his
high regard for the work USAID has done with the Egyptian
press and hopes this will continue.

2. (SBU) Four independent editors are now appealing
convictions and one-year prison sentences for criticizing
President Mubarak and senior government officials (ref B).
One of the four faces additional charges for publishing
stories regarding President Mubarak's health (ref C). Ahmed
told us he sees dialogue with the government, rather than
confrontation, as the solution to these cases. He also
criticized the government for pursuing these cases. He said
the President received bad advice, and "nobody" anticipated
the world-wide attention the cases attracted (which he
contrasted with the favorable press other Arab countries
(e.g. Jordan) received for repealing laws allowing the
imprisonment of journalists). He said this is a good time to
begin a dialogue with the government because "the President
was very angry (about the editors) two months ago, but his
mood had changed."

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3. (SBU) Ahmed sees improving the professionalism of
Egyptian journalists as his other immediate objective. Ahmed
lamented that the number of newcomers to the profession had
in recent years grown so large that there were not enough
seasoned journalists to properly train younger journalists.
He said that inexperienced journalists have difficulty
distinguishing between news and rumors, and only pursue one
side of a story. They are often pushed by the "businessmen"
who own news outlets to pursue sensational stories. We asked
about a code of responsibility or ethics for journalists, and
Ahmed said that such a code is contained in the syndicate's
charter, but the board has never enforced it out of fear of
alienating members and losing votes in subsequent elections.
4. (SBU) Ahmed concluded the meeting by praising USAID,s
work with Egyptian journalists. He said he hoped to work
through Minister for International Cooperation Fayza Aboul
Naga to continue the cooperation. He also said he hoped for
continued dialogue with the U.S. Embassy.
Ricciardone

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