Last Sunday saw the “Strategic Dialogue” resume between Egypt and the US. On 30 May I had written under the title “Egypt-US relations, from tepid to warm?” on the visit of Commander of the US Central Command General Lloyd Austin to Cairo. Mr Austin had talks with President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi who highlighted the importance of dialogue between the two countries.
At the time I pointed to indicators that Egypt US relations were on the mend. These relations had soured in the wake of the 30 June 2013 Revolution in Egypt, which overthrew the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime that had risen to power on the wings of the Arab Spring uprising in January 2011. I wrote that the US administration appeared to have rectified its view of the 2013 Revolution and the subsequent overthrow of the MB, to have grasped that they fully expressed and fulfilled the will of the Egyptian people. I also commended the Egyptian administration’s political wisdom in dealing with the antagonistic address that emanated from the White House and that angered Egyptians. Egypt said then that it was keen to preserve old friends but strove to make new ones on the other side of the world. Obviously this political wisdom bore fruit; andwarmth finally crept back to Egypt-US relations. This has been having a positive impact on the two countries strategically and on Egypt militarily, economically and politically.
The amelioration of Egypt-US relations comes with an added benefit. The US administration is providing awareness programmes to enhance the efficiency of Egyptian youth vis-à-vis democracy. This came about through a programme organised by the US Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, affiliated to the US Department of State. This round of the programme is hosting six Egyptians from the media—among whom are one young man and one young woman from Watani. The three-week-long programme, which will involve visiting several States in the US, runs under the title “The Role of Media in Democracy”, and carries the following objectives:
- Examining the rights and responsibilities of a free press in a democratic society.
- Highlighting the respective roles of print, broadcast, and online media outlets and citizen journalists in disseminating news and information.
- Surveying the US education system and professional development programmes to prepare the next generation of media professionals.
- Discussing efforts to ensure and protect freedom of the press and expression.
I realise that, despite the bright objectives, many Egyptians are wary of US intentions. I understand this apprehension, especially given the current prevalent distrust and bitterness against American policy vis-à-vis our country and region. However, I cannot overlook several encouraging highpoints in the programme, and feel sure they were carefully designed. I am confident of the young journalists’ patriotism and their capacity to separate the wheat from the chaff, even to exploit the ‘chaff’ for the benefit of their role in the media and for Egypt’s quest for democracy and modernisation.
Once the young Egyptians are home, I would be interested to learn how their US visits and lectures can help them fulfil their role in the media and in achieving change in Egypt. The programme includes a visit to the US Department of State in Washington DC, and an introduction to key concepts of the American federal system, and a visit to the Capitol which is home to the Congress with its two houses. There are also visits to the US Department of Justice, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the International Center for Journalists, the Religious News Service, and Voice of America. I am, however, especially interested in a visit scheduled to Freedom House, the watchdog organisation which has constantly attacked Egypt of late; I am eager to learn what our young journalists would hear there.
In Reno, Nevada, the young men and women should visit the Reynolds School of Journalism, the Nevada Media Alliance, the Reno Gazette Journal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. This will be followed by visits to the University of Georgia’s James Cox Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as to the headquarters of CNN, and the Atlanta Daily World.
In New York there will be visits to the Journalism School of Colombia University and the headquarters of the venerable Wall Street Journal.
I only cited part of the programme to give readers a feel of what it is all about but, in fact, the programme is quite expansive and is sure to be rich and intense. I thus eagerly await the young journalists’ feedback once they are back home.
9 August 2015