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TV station pulls plug on Egyptian satire show

Published November 2, 2013 10:13 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Cairo • A prominent Egyptian statesman criticized Saturday a local TV station for canceling a widely popular satire show, describing the decision as unwise and harmful to the country.

Private broadcaster CBC said the program by Bassem Youssef, often compared to U.S. comedian Jon Stewart, would not be shown because the satirist and his producer violated editorial policy.

The decision appeared to be a reaction to the sharp criticism Youssef came under after his first episode after a four-month hiatus mocked the country's recent nationalist fervor.

But suspending the program caused an outcry among Youssef's liberal fan base and a number of prominent public figures who said it undermined freedom of expression and stifled criticism.

Some called for a boycott of the station, and dozens of fans staged a rally near the theater where Youssef records his program. "Government, why do you fear Youssef?" they chanted to drumbeats.

Amr Moussa, a former presidential candidate who chairs a panel tasked with amending Egypt's constitution, urged CBC to reconsider a decision he said had raised concerns for freedom of expression.

"Suspending Bassem Youssef's program is an unwise decision that stirred resentment and concern by many about freedoms," Moussa said in a statement emailed to reporters. The announcement by CBC came just minutes before Youssef's show "El-Bernameg," or "The Program" in Arabic, was to air Friday night.

Egypt's presidential adviser reacted quickly to the public outcry, distancing the government from the decision.