“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
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
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.