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Egyptian channels suspend programming for pro-army rallies

Published: Updated:

Several popular Egyptian television channels said they will suspend entertainment programming on Friday so that viewers can join protests urged by the army to confront “violence” and “terrorism.”

In a joint statement, the channels said the decision was “consistent with the will of the Egyptian people and in response to the call [by the army] to rally throughout Egypt on Friday, July 26 against terrorism.”

The channels include al-Hayat TV, ONTV, CBC, Dream TV, al-kahera wl Nas, al-Tahrir TV, al-Nahar TV, Sada el-Balad.
The Egyptian Creativity Front, a coalition of artists supporting the military’s ouster of President Mohammad Mursi, had teamed up with the unions of actors, filmmakers and musicians to call on television channels to suspend comedy and drama series on Friday evening.

Many people in Egypt and across the Muslim world watch entertainment television programs after they break their fast in Ramadan. Suspending those programs in Egypt is expected to encourage people to go out to the streets and join rallies supporting the army.

Mohammed el-Ad, a founder of the Creativity Front and member of the Popular Current Party, said the television channels understand that the “material losses on this day will be minimal if compared to the interests of the nation.”

During Mursi’s one-year rule, many Egyptian artists and journalists complained of a crackdown on free speech. The state prosecutor mounted charges against several newspapers and television figures, including TV comedian Bassem Youssef.

Pro-Mursi Islamists accuse the mainstream private media of being part of the “deep stay,” an expression often used to describe forces resisting change following the Jan. 25 revolution. They say many of those media, especially television channels, are financed by top businessmen with links to the regime of Hosni Mubarak and the security forces.

Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday called for nationwide rallies on Friday to grant him a mandate to fight what he termed “violence and terrorism.”

“I ask ... that next Friday all honest and trustworthy Egyptians must come out,” Sisi said. “Why? They must come out to give me the mandate and order that I confront violence and potential terrorism,” he added.

The pro-Mursi Islamist coalition denounced Sisi’s call, saying it was an announcement of civil war.

They warned that the army chief is seeking popular support for a possible bloody crackdown on the Islamist opposition.