INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Tunisian Response to the Secretary's November 2 Address To

Published: Fri 6 Nov 2009 06:37 AM
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB
DE RUEHTU #0815/01 3100637
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 060637Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6959
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS TUNIS 000815
SENSITVE
SIPDIS
NEA/PPD FOR SULLIVAN, RATNEY AND PELTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KPAO TS
SUBJECT: TUNISIAN RESPONSE TO THE SECRETARY'S NOVEMBER 2 ADDRESS TO
THE FORUM FOR THE FUTURE
Sensitive but Unclassified. Please protect accordingly.
1. (SBU) Summary: In spite of post's extensive efforts to obtain
full coverage for the Secretary's speech at the Forum for the Future
in Marrakech, including a pre-arranged interview with one of the
media hub spokespersons for a local journalist, the lack of live
television coverage on the satellite networks resulted in
practically no local media attention to the speech. However, there
was extensive coverage of the Secretary's recent statements on the
West Bank settlements made before and during the Forum, all of which
was negative. As almost no one here had heard the speech, no
Tunisians had any comment to make about it. In advance of the
speech, the Ambassador flagged the attention of a high-level
Ministry of Foreign Affairs official to its importance and also
conveyed the significance of the Secretary's new language on the
settlements, made at the margins of the Forum, in a diplomatic note.
End summary.
2. (SBU) Audience reaction: Neither BBC Arabic, BBC international,
CNN, nor Al Jazeera TV carried the speech live or provided coverage
of it after the fact. Neither was the speech rebroadcast on local
TV afterwards. Consequently, viewership was extremely limited; none
of the Tunisians we sought to poll had actually heard it directly,
and no one we spoke to had an opinion about it. Most Tunisians were
focused instead on statements the Secretary had made about
settlements in the West Bank prior to and during the Forum, which
had been given heavy and negative coverage in the local papers over
the last ten days.
3. (SBU) Examples of key headlines/lead stories: As-Sabah Arabic
daily: "Clinton's clarifications about settlements are not enough to
re-launch the negotiations; Clinton's statement is a step back on
Obama's promises." Le Quotidien French language daily: "This
spectacular reversal by Washington buries hopes raised in recent
months about what appeared to be a shift in U.S. policy."
Ash-Shorouq Arabic daily: "America's step-back on settlements has
weakened Abbas's options." Front-page coverage in Le Temps: "Even
if Clinton tried to reassure the Palestinians in Marrakech, the
damage is done and the disappointment is evident. This U-turn means
that Obama's intentions will not go beyond the stage of vague
attempts."
4. (SBU) Key anecdotes of audience and/or government responses:
Because of the lack of coverage on the television networks, the
Tunisians we sought to poll on the speech were not familiar enough
with it to have an opinion.
5. (SBU) Overall assessment of penetration and reasons if low
penetration: Lack of television coverage meant that few Tunisians
were aware of the remarks made in the Forum speech. Those who
followed newspaper coverage may have been aware of the Secretary's
remarks on West Bank settlements made during a photo spray at the
margin of the Forum.
6. (SBU) Type of media coverage: Print only, with widespread
coverage of Secretary's remarks concerning West Bank settlements,
but not of the speech itself.
7. (SBU) Television stations covering the speech live and their
viewership: None; probably because no live coverage was provided by
the satellite cable news networks viewed by most Tunisians.
8. (SBU) Speech (re)broadcast, printed in full or just excerpts: No
broadcast or other use of the speech except for the Embassy's web
page and our direct emailing to our contacts. Comments were made
about Secretary's settlements remarks, but her actual words were not
quoted.
9. (SBU) Follow-up interviews, statements, events, made by USG
officials: On October 30, Ambassador Gray mentioned the fact that
the Secretary would be giving an important speech in a meeting with
Mrs. Schtioui, the Tunisian Secretary of State for American and
Asian Affairs, as she was planning to attend the Forum for the
Future. Additionally, the Ambassador sent a diplomatic note to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spelling out the language that the
Secretary had used in her remarks about settlements made at the
margins of the Forum. Tunis Public Affairs Officer subsequently paid
an office call on the director of a popular independent FM radio
station to ascertain his interest in interviewing an Embassy
officer, who had assisted in Marrakech, about the initiatives
announced at the Forum; we are hopeful that we may be able to report
progress soon but are not overly optimistic.
10. (SBU) What key non-USG credible voices commented on the speech,
tone, quotes: There was no local commentary on the speech itself,
only on the Secretary's remarks about settlements.
11. (SBU) What new media tools were used to broadcast the speech or
encourage discussion: Post invited a Tunisian journalist from
Al-Sabah newspaper to do an exclusive interview with a PA regional
media hub spokesperson by phone after the Secretary's speech at the
Forum for the Future, but the hub spokesperson asked to re-schedule
this to a later time that was not possible for the journalist. In
lieu of the promised interview, we provided the journalist with
Washington's media notes about the Forum that had been sent in
advance of, and after, the speech. Post posted all of these
materials on the Embassy web page, in Facebook, and distributed them
electronically to local journalists in a trilingual format.
GRAY
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