Egypt satirist Bassem Youssef says show’s suspension wasn't nice

Youssef was one of four foreign journalists honored with Press Freedom Awards on Nov. 26 by the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. (Reuters)

A popular Egyptian satirist known as the country's “Jon Stewart” said Wednesday that he'll take the military and the government it backs at their word that they were not behind the decision to take his weekly TV program off the air, but he said it still doesn't make them look “very nice.”

Bassem Youssef spoke in a TV interview, his first televised appearance in Egypt since November when the private station CBC suspended his show after the season's first episode, which was highly critical of the military and the nationalist fervor gripping the nation after a popularly backed coup that ousted Islamist leader Mohammed Mursi.

The station said the satirist had violated its editorial policy and contractual obligations, and that he upset Egyptians sensibilities by attacking “symbols of the state.”

Government and presidential officials at the time said the decision was a private issue between Youssef and the station.

Youssef, whose show called “The Program” mirrored Stewart's “The Daily Show” although it was weekly, said he truly believes the military-backed government's denials that it did not order the suspension but added that “at the end of the day, the regime doesn't look very nice.”

“This is a program that will upset some people, please others, and others won't care for it,” he said. “But you don't have to be a custodian of the people.”

Mursi and his Islamist allies were regular targets for jokes by Youssef, who came under litigation by the supporters of the now ousted president, and was briefly held before he posted bail.

“The fact of the matter is after 30 episodes (under Mursi), the program wasn't stopped,” he told his interviewer Yosry Fouda on the private ONTV station. “But it was (now) stopped after one episode.”

Several complaints were filed after Youssef's episode, by many private citizens and politicians accusing him of disrespecting the country's military rulers and offending public sentiments.

Youssef took to task his once-loyal liberal fans for having the same low tolerance of criticism as his Islamist detractors under Mursi.

The production company of Youssef's show said after the suspension of the program, it decided to leave the private station but it wasn't clear if it is seeking another venue.

Youssef was one of four foreign journalists honored with Press Freedom Awards on Nov. 26 by the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York.
 

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