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UNESCO Controversy

Media flurry demonizes Egyptian culture minister

Hazel Heyer, eTN Staff Writer  Oct 28, 2009

Egyptian reviews and numerous opinions have been expressed in newspapers throughout Egypt about the recent defeat of Culture Minister Farouk Hosni. His defeat happened in the last round of the elections for UNESCO’s director-general post. Diverse opinions - contradictory or complementary – flood the press from the assumption of a conspiracy orchestrated by the so-called American axis of evil, as they call him, to the idea of a missed opportunity to develop the Arab-West dialogue.

Not long after Minister Farouk Hosni lost the last round of the elections for UNESCO’s top position, the gates of media hell flung wide open. The press in Egypt reflected on the subject from different points of view. Under the headline, “Collusion,” al-Musawwar of September 23, 2009 wrote, Hosni lost with honor and Washington lost its own. The Al-Musawwar ascribed his failure to the conspiracy of the “American axis of evil; Germany, Japan and Israel.”

Amani Abd al-Hamid further referred to “the African treason,” arguing that only five of the 13 African countries voted for him. The Al-Misri al-Yawm headlined its article on the subject, “The clash of civilizations resolved UNESCO battle.” Al-Misri al-Yawm published that America, Europe and the Jewish lobby managed to ensure that Hosni did not win the vote. While the Al-Ahrar, considered Hosni’s failure to become the director general of UNESCO to be a big defeat for the United States administration that constantly pretends to be seeking conciliation with the Islamic world.

Opposition paper Rose al-Yusuf reported on the elections and the results in the same skeptical light adopted by other Egyptian newspapers. Rose al-Yusuf claimed the battle was not clean and that Hosni “participated in a very civilized way.” On its first page, Rose al-Yusuf published a table presenting the names, nationalities, religions and tenures of the former UNESCO director generals since 1946. Among the nine, only the Senegalese Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow was Muslim.

The Al-Jumhuriyah also wrote about the strange and “suspicious alliance” against Hosni, reporting on Hosni’s refusal to politicize UNESCO. Meanwhile, the Al-Hayah reported on the first woman to head UNESCO, and al-Sharq al-Awsat reported on Hosni’s defeat and the Washington-Berlin-London-Tokyo alliance that fought Hosni and defeated him. The AWR says Egyptian newspapers commented on the fact that last year Hosni claimed that he would burn copies of Israeli books in Egypt.

For what this is good for, nothing changes the fate of Bulgarian diplomat Irina Gueorguieva Bokova, 57, who has become the first woman to lead the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). On 22 September she beat Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni in a tight race that went through five rounds of voting. According to news reports, Hosni was the front-runner for months.

But Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had raised concerns about his candidacy, noting his poor record on free expression as minister since 1987.

Hosni and Bokova had an equal amount of votes on Monday night of elections; but the UNESCO rules dictate that if Tuesday's vote had also been a draw, officials would have picked a name at random from a bag. The final vote among UNESCO executive board members was 31 to 27.
Bokova, the ambassador of Bulgaria to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, is also the first Eastern European to lead UNESCO. "Ideas drive humanity forward, and I think UNESCO is about that," she said, adding, she would "work very hard so that UNESCO does more in the fields of science, innovation and technology."

Her nomination was submitted for approval by the General Conference on 15 October, which brings together representatives of UNESCO's 193 member states. Bokova replaced Koichiro Matsuura of Japan.

Media flurry demonizes Egyptian culture minister
Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni

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