Egypt TV criticized for suspending popular satire
FILE - In this Sunday, March 31, 2013 file photo, Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef, known as Egypt's Jon Stewart, waves to his supporters as he enters Egypt's state prosecutors office to face charges for allegedly insulting Islam and the country's leader, in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into a complaint that alleges Youssef, harmed national interests by ridiculing the country's military. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
CAIRO (AP) — A private Egyptian TV station came under fire from public figures and fans of a widely popular satirist Saturday after it blocked the airing of his weekly show critical of the military and the country's recent nationalist fervor.
Minutes before the program of Bassem Youssef, often compared to U.S. comedian Jon Stewart, was to air Friday, broadcaster CBC said it was suspending it because the satirist and his producer violated editorial policy.
The channel's decision appeared to be a reaction to the sharp criticism Youssef came under by supporters of the army after his first episode following a four-month hiatus.
The station's CEO said management had warned the satirist, asking him to take into consideration the angry response from the public after his first episode.
Mohammed el-Amin told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya website that Youssef ignored the warning and violated the "journalist code of ethics," forcing them to suspend the show. El-Amin said the show has not been cancelled.
The program's production company denied the claim, saying the episode included nothing that violated its professional and legal guidelines.
Amr Moussa, a former presidential candidate who currently chairs a panel tasked with amending Egypt's constitution, urged CBC to reconsider a decision he said raised concerns over freedom of expression.
Egyptian youths gather in Talaat Harb square during a demonstration in support of Egyptian political satirist Bassem Youssef after a local TV station stops the airing of his show in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013. A prominent Egyptian statesman criticized Saturday a local TV station for stopping the airing of a widely popular satire show by Youssef, describing the decision as unwise and harmful to the country. The Arabic on the poster reads, "Revolution continues, top," "We will continue." (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
"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. "I urge CBC to reconsider its decision that hurt Egypt, like it hurt the station management."
Egypt's presidential adviser reacted quickly to the public outcry, distancing the government from the decision. Ahmed el-Muslemani told the Abu-Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia that the decision was "an internal matter." He added that the president respected freedom of expression and opinion.
The program's suspension also caused uproar among Youssef's liberal fan base and a number of prominent public figures who said it undermined freedom of expression and stifled criticism.
Dozens of fans staged a rally near the theatre where Youssef records the show. "Government, why do you fear Youssef?" they chanted to drumbeats.
Some called for a boycott of the station. A new song entitled "Where is Bassem Youssef?" went viral on the internet hours after the decision.