Western embassies warn citizens and journalists

Dina Ezzat , Saturday 27 Nov 2010

Warnings have been issued by many Western embassies in Egypt for nationals to be vigilant Sunday as Egypt votes for a new parliament.

"We just said they have to be careful. Avoid getting into or near crowds," said one Cairo-based Western diplomat.

The warnings issued from some foreign embassies, diplomats insist, are not aimed to question the capacity or commitment of Egyptian security to protect foreign personaninterests in Egypt. They are, however, according to one Western diplomat, suggestions designed to alert citizens to possible incidents of violence and clashes.

"We are just telling them they need to avoid being in places where there could be confrontations or demonstrations. We are telling them that they need to look after their children carefully on that day," the diplomat explained.

The same embassies have alerted their Cairo-based journalists to be careful on Sunday. "We know that Egyptian authorities are being very sensitive about the possible coverage of Western media, and we don’t want to have problems on that day," said a third Western diplomat.

He added that the objective is for journalists to do their work without getting into confrontations with Egyptian security. "We asked them to follow the rules; if security says they cannot get into polling stations then they should not get into polling stations, and so on."

Meanwhile, many Western embassies have assigned officers to be in duty to attend to unexpected emergencies, including the possible arrest of foreign journalists.

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