Bassem Youssef’s popular political satire show will not be returning to Egyptian television screens, says the political satirist during a press conference.
MBC Misr had earlier this week announced the decision to not air ‘El Bernameg’ as scheduled on May 30, without giving any explanation.
In a press conference, Bassem Youssef, who has won multiple awards and was featured in TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2012, declared that the program is over.
“The present climate is not suitable for this political satire program,” said Dr Youssef. “I am tired of fearing and worrying about my personal safety of me and for my family.”
Dr Youssef added that El-Bernameg will not continue on MBC and that it will not be aired on any other channel for circumstances beyond both his and MBC’s control.
“Maybe disappearance of Al-Bernameg will force [people/revolutionaries] to think about new, more creative means of [opposition].”
“Those who think there has not been pressure are delusional,” said Dr Youssef, hinting at pressure to pull his show off air and adding that adapting to the pressure would have changed the nature of the show.
Following the announcement of the show’s suspension earlier this week and the announcement of the cancellation, the top trending tweet in Egypt was “long live El-Bernameg.”
Social media users expressed concern that the show has been censored due to Dr Youssef’s criticism of the hype surrounding former Military Chief and Egypt’s next President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
The show had initially been suspended in April in order to avoid ‘influencing public opinion and the voters’ choice of President ahead of elections.’
The suspension came weeks after El-Bernameg had re-aired on MBC Misr following a scandal involving private Egyptian satellite channel CBC in 2013.
El-Bernameg was banned from airing on CBC by executives following complaints that the 39-year-old former heart surgeon had mocked the military and other media personalities.
El-Bernameg under investigation
Dr Youssef’s El-Bernameg has been under investigation since the start of 2014 amid claims that the show insults the military, the government and the will of Egyptian people.
The show has been accused of threatening national security and stability amid ‘desperate times.’
Yet, the investigations are not the first. During the rule of deposed President Mohammed Morsi, Dr Youssef was summoned and questioned by the prosecution over charges of insulting the deposed President and Islam.
At the time of the investigation, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart quipped “If your regime can’t handle a joke, you don’t have a regime.”
Death of satire?
Supporters of Dr Youssef have claimed that the show’s boldness is behind attempts to ‘silence’ it.
“In the first episode, Bassem Youssef delicatedly criticized the Egyptian military and the cult surrounding the chairman of the armed forces, Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil al-Sisi,” explained Jonathon Guyer.
“Bassem Youssef was eating cupcakes with al-Sisi’s face on them and making jokes about how many he should buy to prove his patriotism.”
Dr Youssef’s open criticism of the government and local Egyptian media led to the rise of the allegations that the political satirist is an ‘agent of the USA’ and an ‘enemy of Egypt.’
Criticism of Dr Youssef heightened after he was accused of plagiarism in March 2014.
An Arabic article on the Ukrainian crisis written by Dr Youssef and published on Al-Shorouq was found to be a copy of an English version published by Ben Judah in Politico Magazine.
The political satirist explained that he was deeply sorry and that his citation of the original article, despite his intentions, had not been listed.
Despite the criticism, the reaction on social media to the show’s delay or termination shows that many still long to see Dr Youssef’s return to television screens.