Egypt state TV drums up fear of spies

A foreigner walks into an Egyptian café, and surveys the crowd. His eyes scan the crowd, and focus in on three Egyptians sitting at a table. The unsuspecting Egyptians greet the guest warmly, and he is only too keen to butter them up: "I really like you," he says.

The conversation turns political: One of the women at the table says she overheard talk of a conspiracy against the army on the metro. "Really?" the guest intones in English, and the word echoes ominously. He then begins writing a message on his smartphone - presumably, the commercial implies, to his foreign paymasters.

This ad, which appeared on Egypt's state-owned Nile TV, has resurrected fears among journalists of a repeat of the spasm of xenophobia that accompanied last year's revolution. Mr. "Really?" is only doing what reporters everywhere do when news breaks -- asking locals their opinions of the state of their country. If that's a crime, journalism has become illegal.

(Thanks to Menna Alaa for confirming the ad's appearance on Egyptian television)


Bashir forced to cancel travel plans

An outstanding ICC warrant for his arrest hasn't prevented Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from traveling over the last couple years. The globetrotting accused war criminal has visited countries including China, Chad, Qatar, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Ethiopia since the court's indictment was handed down. But it looks like he will have to cancel plans to attend next month's AU summit in Malawi: 

Malawi already angered international donors when it hosted Bashir last year. President Joyce Banda said last month that she had asked the AU to prevent him from attending the summit as another visit could have "implications" for the country's economy.[...]

Khartoum asked the bloc that the summit - planned to run from July 9 to 16 - be held instead in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, home to the AU headquarters.

It said it had made the request following Malawi's announcement that Bashir was not welcome at the summit "upon a claimed adherence of Malawi to its obligations to the so-called 'International Criminal Court'".

It does seem like Banda, who took over in April after the death of the confrontational and notoriously corrupt Bingu wa Mutharika, has making all the right moves to stay on the good side of western donors, including repealing the country's harsh laws against homosexuality earlier this month and discarding some of her predecessors lavish perks. It appears to be working. Britain announced it was releasing $51 million in aid, almost a year after suspending assistance to the country because of Mutharika's mismanagement.