Bassem Youssef. Photo courtesy of Hossam el-Hamalawy/Flickr.
Bassem Youssef, dubbed Egypt’s version of Jon Stewart, is off the airwaves yet again. After coming back from a nearly four-month hiatus, Youssef’s latest season of his show, “Al Bernameg” (“The Show”), only aired one episode before being cut. His second episode was removed from broadcast only minutes before it was scheduled to air.
“The Show” is a satirical news program, mimicking the style of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” In the spring, the TV station that aired Youssef’s program came under scrutiny with the Morsi government threatening to revoke the station’s license, due to Youssef’s controversial programming in which he satirized Egypt’s president and Islam. Ultimately, an Egyptian court rejected motions to have the program shut down completely.
However, history seems to repeating itself. After airing just one episode of its second season, the show has officially been suspended, citing a breach of contract regarding “editorial policies.” In the latest episode of “The Show,” Youssef criticized the military and apparently, the content was critical enough to warrant a suspension from releasing further episodes.
Surprisingly, a recent poll showed that around half of the population agree with Youssef’s suspension. A reason for this even split could have its roots in the exhausted public interest. Supporters of Youssef, often liberals within the Egyptian community, have simply had enough of his harsh criticisms, though some think that the split decision regarding Youssef’s suspension is just another example of the polarized political landscape in Egypt.
There is an underlying notion of censorship, however, and what sort of programming should or shouldn’t be allowed. A new constitution is in the works for the nation and it will undoubtedly address concerns of the media and free speech, but until it is finalized, several aspects of media content, such as what is acceptable to produce, unbiased versus biased reporting, and satirical journalism, are on shaky ground.
Though the future of Youssef’s show is still largely undecided, he himself hasn’t remained out of the public eye. Recently, he had an op-ed piece published by Al-Sharouk, an independent newspaper in Egypt. In it, he referenced fifties-era America and McCarthyism, a witch-hunt launched by an American senator during the Cold War, persecuting individuals who may have had ties to the Soviet Union. The piece is titled, “Treason to the Rhythm of the Tango.”
Edited by Amanda Diehl, TIM Associate Editor.