On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Positive side of Egypt unknown to the world

“We used to have at least 30 customers. Now, I am lucky
if I get 10  tourists walking into my
shop,'' he  lamented.

A gloom has settled over Egypt  which
earns over US$3bil a year  from

Like Malaysia, Egypt suffers bad  press
from the Western media.

Tourist guides and taxi drivers  called
the incident “an accident''  but jobs
have been lost as Egypt  struggles to woo
back tourists.

The Egyptian Government has  stepped up
security around tourist  spots and hotels
in response to the  pledge by the
determined and well organised guerilla groups to keep  foreigners away.

In downtown Cairo, security  forces guard
the museum where  two members of an armed
group  killed nine German tourists in a  bus attack last September.

But the Western press is not to be 
blamed entirely. For decades, government intervention led to
artificially sustained supply of good 
news. The result was loss of credibility.

Exaggerated and misleading  news by the
Western press on  Egypt was swallowed by
the locals.

When the Egyptian press became  freer a
few years back, there was a  sudden rush
to meet pent-up demand for bad news.

The sad part, according to local 
journalists, is that a surprising 
amount of decent good news never 
reaches the public.

The media has pointed their fingers at the government, saying that  public relations exercises have not  been cleverly carried out.

For example, tourists all over the  world
are told to watch out for  traders and
taxi drivers who fleece  their customers
while hotel employees are said to be notorious in  asking for tips.

Egypt has its positive side but  has
failed to exploit it. The world  hardly
knows that it has a very low  crime rate
for a big city.

Such news items never see print  because
the police do not release  crime

Known for its perpetual smog,  Egypt has
ordered the use of only  lead-free petrol
but it has strangely  chosen to do so
with almost monastic secrecy, as one reporter described it.

Another news item which has not  been
publicised to the world is the  building
of Egypt's metro railway  line by digging
under the River  Nile. A small feat,
perhaps, but certainly a good story.

For the first time, Egypt is a  creditor
nation with reserves of  US$20.05bil. Its
budget deficit has  shrunk from 24% to
1.5%, making  it a nation to watch

There's an important lesson for  Malaysia
here. The budget cut on  our government
machinery should  not affect the workings
of our information officers in foreign missions.

They have to cultivate good relations with the foreign media. Regular meetings,
lunches and friendship all takes time and, of course,  money.

Journalists want to be kept in  touch
constantly and not called up  only when
they are needed.

Malaysia needs the support of  the
foreign media. When they print  a
misleading news item, we should  insist
that our side of the story be  printed
with equal prominence.

Take the case of the impression  that the
haze has clouded the Malaysian sky.

By now, we should have informed the media from Commonwealth countries that the
haze is  merely confined to Miri  and that 
Kuala Lumpur is far away.

With most countries depending  on Western
news agencies for their  foreign news, we
cannot afford  such negative

An update on Malaysia, including  the
run-up to the Commonwealth  Games, must
be despatched to give  the true

Let's not be fooled by all the talk 
about some runners staying away 
from long-distance events purportedly because of the haze. Fact is,  none of them stand a chance  against the African runners, especially those
from Kenya. That's the  clearer picture.