Egypt's journalists protest Bush visit

Journalists took the lead in protesting this week's visit to Egypt by U.S. president George W. Bush.
By John Ehab
Eypt Bush protest.jpg
Egyptian MP's protest the U.S. president's visit to Egypt. R.R.

CAIRO, Jan. 17, 2008 (MENASSAT.COM) – Egyptian journalists joined political activists and opposition members of parliament this week to denounce U.S. president George W. Bush's visit to Egypt and the Middle East.

Egypt was the last stop on the U.S. president's eight-day trip to the Middle East, his first since he came into office in 2001 (not counting the occasional surprise visit to the U.S. troops in Iraq). The U.S. president met briefly with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday before heading back to Washington.

Far away in Cairo, protesters set fire to American flags, and opposition newspapers such as Al-Ahaly and el-Wafd expressed their dissatisfaction with the Bush visit, headlining "Get out" and "Not welcome."

Ahead of the Bush visit, around 150 journalists had already staged a protest against "American imperialism", chanting slogans in which president Bush was denounced as a "war criminal" because of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and U.S. policy in the region in general.

The protest was held on the steps of the Egyptian journalists' syndicate.

According to Gamal Fahmi, a member of the journalists' syndicate, the Bush visit appeared very cynical to the Arab people. "At the very time that Arab leaders are warmly welcoming Bush, the Arab people are adopting an opposite position,” Fahmi said. "Why did he come? Why are you welcoming him? That is our question."

Why are journalists taking the lead in protesting the Bush visit? "Because as journalists we know more than [average people], it is normal that we should express our refusal of this visit", Fahmi said.

For Khaled el-Sergani a journalist with the independent newspaper el-Dostour, "It is obvious that Bush only came to gather allies against Iran, while he had nothing to offer  the Arabs. We wish Bush would come with a plan for a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

El-Sergani also pointed out that the Bush administration seemed to have given up pushing for reform in the region. Bush did call for greater political openness in Egypt, when he addressed the press together with Mubarak, but his statements fell short of earlier criticism of Mubarak's rule in State Department reports.

The Egyptian blogosphere showed little enthusiasm for the journalists protest. "The journalist’s syndicate’s demonstrations are mere propaganda", said blogger Malek Mostafa, "They don’t reflect what the people think."