The U.S. ambassador in Egypt has angered members of the local press for criticizing what he says is unprofessional reporting and unfair attacks on U.S. policies.
A media backlash erupted in Egypt last week, when in a speech at Cairo's American University, U.S. Ambassador David Welch complained of what he said was irresponsible and unprofessional reporting by some of Egypt's newspapers. He referred to what he said were "regrettable articles," being published in the Egyptian press, attacking the United States or proposing what he called "crazy conspiracy" theories.
Egypt's press syndicate responded by calling Ambassador Welch persona non grata, and asking the country's journalists to boycott him. Many did Thursday, by not attending an Arab League press conference, where the U.S. ambassador spoke.
"They are welcome to issue their statements as they like, I have made my views very clear," said Ambassador Welch. "I am a representative of the American government, and I have things to say about these issues, and I don't object to any criticism of U.S. policy, as long as my voice can be heard also. With respect to hostility and provocation, I think a line should be drawn."
According to Galal Aarif, head of Egypt's Press Syndicate, Mr. Welch should be called before the Egyptian foreign minister. He said the syndicate has asked that the foreign minister call in the U.S. ambassador for interference in Egypt's internal affairs. He accuses the U.S. envoy of trying to tell Egyptian journalists what to report and what not to report.
U.S. press attaché in Cairo Philip A. Frayne said the U.S. and Egyptian governments are not taking up the dispute. "We haven't raised this with the government officials, and they haven't raised it with us, or with the ambassador," he said. "Obviously, it has been a big story in the press, the press here doesn't like to get criticized, but the press in the [United] States doesn't like to get criticized either."
Mr. Welch has been in Egypt since 2001. He caused a media stir last year, when he wrote an article accusing the Egyptian media of distorting the facts about the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Egypt is a major U.S. ally in the Middle East, but public opinion here is growing increasingly critical of America's occupation of Iraq and handling of the Israeli-Palestinan conflict.