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06CAIRO6746 2006-11-07 09:22:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
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1. (C) Summary: Two Egyptian tabloids with a history of
spurious attacks on Egyptian human rights and democracy
activists recently turned their sights on a senior Egyptian
employee of post's Economic-Political Section, decrying his
work on religious freedom and MEPI. Post sees no evidence at
this point of any physical risk to our colleague, but we will
continue to track this issue closely. End summary.

2. (C) On October 15, an editorial in the weekly Al-Naba'a
attacked senior ECPO political specialist Karim Sobhy
Awadallah, naming him as Copt who is disloyal to Egypt.
According to Al-Naba'a's chief editor Hatem Mahran, Karim
plays a key role in "forming an untrue picture that is full
of lies and allegations about Government-Copt problems." The
Naba'a piece emphasized Karim's links to well-known democracy
activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and alleged that Karim had
received an award from NEA A/S Welch for his work. Mahran
also charged that Karim's support of Embassy small grants to
Egyptian NGOs working on democracy and human rights "plays on
national unity and courts the irregular and pro-Western
ideological trends." Mahran concluded that "no-one knows
what kind of blood runs in Karim's veins," and argued that
Karim and "Coptic expatriates think that America will restore
occupied Egypt for them." On October 22, Al-Osboa, another
weekly, repeated the questions about Karim's loyalty to
Egypt, noted his links to Saad Eddin Ibrahim and the award
from A/S Welch, and charged that Karim was seeking
commissions of 40 percent in exchange for steering USG grants
to Egyptian NGOs. Poloff has spoken with several NGO
contacts who noticed the article. They downplayed the import
of the articles saying "They do this to everybody," and
"Welcome to our world."

3. (C) Comment: The two publications in question are
widely seen as low-circulation, sensationalist scandal
sheets, and are allegedly used by shadowy elements of the
security apparatus to plant negative stories about democracy
and human rights activists. Saad Eddin Ibrahim is a favorite
target of their ire. These and several other "independent"
publications routinely bash MEPI programs, USG support for
religious freedom, and related personalities and issues. In
March 2005, for example, the announcement of five MEPI grants
by then-Ambassador Welch sparked a flurry of sensationalist
outrage. In February 2006, Roz Al-Yousef published an
article attacking then-poloff Ian McCary, labeling him as a
"suspicious" and "unobjective" diplomat, and in May and June,
the yellow press seized on the issue of NDI, IRI, and IFES
operating in Egypt without approved GOE registrations.

4. (C) Comment, continued: The most recent attacks on our
LES colleague, a high-performing employee who works under the
close supervision of post's political officers, are in line
with this long-standing trend of dubious reportage, but they
bear special attention because this is the first time such
reports have singled out an LES colleague by name. Post is
following up on this matter with appropriate GOE contacts to
signal our serious concern about this development.