THE Egyptian government was stung by a wave of criticism yesterday following the appearance of a series of television adverts which appeared to warn viewers against talking to foreigners because they might be spies.
The glossy-looking commercials, which run for about 40 seconds, feature a foreign man walking into a cafe and then sitting down with a group of three young Egyptians.
To a doom-laden soundtrack replete with violin crescendos and plodding drumbeats, a girl at the table starts talking to the English-speaking guest about a reported conspiracy against the army.
The curious visitor nods along, before tapping a message into his mobile phone to an unknown third party. A slogan then appears on screen saying: "Every word has a price; a word can save a nation."
The adverts, which started appearing on state-owned and private television stations this week, have generated bemusement and anger among Egyptians and foreigners alike.
Since the Military Council took power last year, viewers of the tightly controlled state-television news channels have been fed a sporadic diet of stories about "foreign hands" interfering in Egyptian politics.
It is still unclear who was behind the advertising campaign, but one prominent journalist, who used to work for the state-owned Nile TV network, said that it was probably ordered on air by the ministry of information. "They used to give these kind of spots to the head of the channel," said Shahira Amin, talking about previous government-sponsored commercials. "They were pre-recorded and the ministry would say it had to run a certain number of times."
Nobody from the ministry of information was available to comment yesterday. (© Independent News Service)