CAIRO – The production company of Egypt’s widely popular satire show said Sunday it has decided to leave the private station that took it off the air after it lampooned the military and the recent nationalist fervour gripping the country.
QSoft said in a statement that it failed to convince CBC to resume broadcasting Bassem Youssef’s program, and will take legal action against the network over “financial and moral damages.”
The dispute over Youssef’s “ElBernameg”, or The Program, in Arabic, started earlier this month when CBC took the show off the air after the new season’s first episode, saying he violated “the journalist code of ethics” and had delivered fewer episodes than agreed upon.
Qsoft called CBC’s reasons a “pretext” and said its decision reflected badly on freedom of expression in Egypt. It accused the station of waging a campaign against the satirist and the production company “to pressure them and impose restrictions on the program and its content.”
The decision came minutes before airing the second episode of the season. It caused an uproar among Youssef’s fans and some of the country’s prominent politicians who accused the station of stifling criticism of the country’s new interim rulers and the military.
Those who watched the pre-recorded show said Youssef had largely focused on the station’s policy, mocking its statement criticizing his first show that satirized nationalist fervour that nearly idolized the military and its leaders.
“The station’s decision to suspend the program had reflected a very negative image to the world about the democratic environment and the freedom of expression in Egypt” after the popularly backed coup that ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi from office in July, QSoft said in a statement.
Youssef’s program has often stirred controversies, making him the target of many legal complaints. Authorities already investigated him for the first episode on charges of disrupting public order and insulting Egypt and military leaders.
Youssef’s popularity peaked during Morsi’s rule, when he was the target of weekly jokes mocking him and his Islamist allies for mixing religion and politics. Youssef was also briefly detained and released on bail under Morsi on accusations of insulting the president and Islam.
It is not yet clear if Youssef will go to another station.