The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

AmCham Luncheon

Today the American Chamber of Commerce hosted NDP policies secretariat chairman Gamal Mubarak, who gave a press conference at the Four Seasons.

Gleaned from foreign press journalists invited to attend, Gamal gave a presentation which mainly dealt with economic - rather than political - issues.

After the presentation, a Q&A section followed. Rather than directly taking questions from the audience and press, questions were written down and vetted on stage before the moderator asked Gamal to respond to a selection.

During the Q&A, Gamal took questions that deal with the "historic initiative" of the constitutional amendment and how Egypt is working to sign a FTA agreement with the US. Another question that Gamal tackled was the rather general "why is economic reform going faster than political reform" query. The details of today's meeting should be published on the AmCham website in the coming days.

ABC, BBC, LA Times, and the Washington Post posed written questions asking whether there would be investigations regarding the women sexually assaulted last Wednesday and if the crackdown on opposition was a contradiction with the policies secretariat's view of the reform process. None of their questions were selected by the moderator.

After the meeting ended, the foreign press stringers went to the podium where they were cut off by AmCham's executive director (Hisham Fahmy) and executive V-P (Gamal Muhharam). As one stringer told me, "They switched from speaking about democracy in American accents to treating us like we were in a local coffee shop." According to reports, "Fahmy and Muhharam started saying things in Arabic like 'you all don't have manners and are rude,' 'you are not invited again to an AmCham event,' and 'if you ask those types of questions, you should go and talk to the Americans about them'."

The Western affiliated journalists were offended and told them not to invite them anymore and that it was a waste of time.

So much for damage control...

This is another example of how not to win hearts and minds of the Western press.

Yet, rather that chalking this up to government/AmCham mishandling/stupidity, there may be another explanation. Based on recent statements coming from government and its appendices - it seems that the Egyptian government is feeling extra-confident that there is not going to be any follow-up Western pressure.

Washington....Are they right?
If they are -really- shame on you.


The text of Gamal Mubarak's speech at the AMCHAM luncheon is now available.