DATELINE: CAIRO, 6th OCTOBER 1981
by Chris Greenway
When President Reagan was shot earlier this year television pictures of the assassination attempt were being shown around the world within minutes of the event; and when a gunman seriously wounded the Pope in St. Peter's Square listeners to Vatican Radio were very soon hearing up to the minute and reliable reports on the Pope's condition broadcast for a multilingual audience worldwide on a number of shortwave channels.
However it was a rather different matter when President Sadat was shot by a group of Egyptian soldiers at a military parade in Cairo on Tuesday October 6th Although this dramatic event was potentially an occasion when the keen Shortwave Listener could use his hobby to receive first hand reports direct from the scene, rather than rely on 'processed' information from our own domestic media, the behaviour of the Egyptian's broadcasting system precluded this.
It was at 1104 GMT (1304 local time) that six soldiers leapt from an army lorry which had stopped in front of the President's reviewing stand, threw grenades at Sadat and nearby VIPs and then opened fire fatally wounding the Egyptian leader and seven others and causing at least 20 other casualties. Cairo Radio and Television, which had been carrying a live outside broadcast of the ceremony, abruptly cut this transmission short without explanation leaving listeners and viewers bewildered. Indeed for Egyptians themselves foreign broadcasters were the only source of information about events in their own capital for almost seven hours. Their confusion must have been confounded by the fact that these foreign radio stations, particularly those broadcasting specifically to Egypt, were often giving conflicting accounts of events in Cairo.
Within an hour of the shooting lunch time listeners in Britain were receiving a very full coverage of what was known at the time including several live eyewitness reports on 'The World at One'. Sadat died in hospital at around 1215 GMT and his death was unofficially communicated shortly afterwards to the World's Press.
The Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahariyah Broadcasting Corporation (SPLAJBC) had pre-empted this information and was announcing Sadat's death within an hour of the shooting in Cairo, giving rise to suspicions that sources in Libya must have advanced warning of the attack. And at 1253 GMT SPLAJBC announced that General Shazly (leader of the Egyptian National Front - an umbrella opposition group) would "be broadcasting an important announcement to the people shortly". At 1300 Tripoli Radio was broadcasting calls to the Egyptian people urging them to take over the radio station in Cairo and, in typical polemical style, announced that "Sadat's face has disappeared, the ugly face has disappeared with all it's shame, capitulation and defeat. Sadat has died and some of his ministers have die to. Shame arid "treason' died with him".
In response to events in their neighbouring country SPLAJBC had discontinued their relay of their domestic service on short wave at 1415 and began broadcasting it's 'Voice of the Arab Homeland' external service for listeners in the Arab world. (This service is normally scheduled to start at 1800). Later this service, using 17930, 15415, 15270 and 6185 kHz, carried a speech on the assassination by Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. Meanwhile JANA, the official Libyan News Agency, was carrying a report claiming that a 'local' broadcast from an Egyptian radio station had been heard carrying a 'revolutionary statement in the name of the free officers'.
Like the calm at the eye of a storm Radio Cairo gave no indication that the assassination had taken place in it's 1230 scheduled News broadcast in English to Asia and only at 1625 did it give any indication of the trouble by starting to broadcast chants from the Koran. These chants, uninterrupted by announce-ments were observed on both frequencies normally scheduled to relay the General Service and those of the 'Voice of the Arabs'. Finally at 1752 the Koran recitation was interrupted for an announcement by a very solemn Vice-President Mubarak. This announcement, and the English News bulletin for Europe at 2130, gave very few details of the manner of Sadat's death but merely said he had been attacked at the parade to commemorate 'the October 6th victory', the day when 'dignity was restored to the entire Arab nation'.
As a curious postscript to the day the 'Voice of the Egyptian People' clandestine station which broadcasts material in Arabic hostile to Sadat, failed to appear on the evening of the 6th October for it's scheduled 1900-2000 broadcast on 9670.
Material for this article came from Press reports, BBC MS, and my own listening
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