Bassem Youssef’s satirical show “Al-Bernameg” was suspended by its host channel CBC until “administrative and technical” problems are resolved, according to a statement issued by the channel.
Amid a strict curfew, viewers huddled around their TVs late Friday to watch what would’ve been the show’s second episode after a long hiatus. Instead, they were met with a statement by CBC’s board read out by presenter Khairy Ramadan on his show “Momken.”
The statement said CBC’s board was surprised to find the content of Friday’s episode in “violation of what had been agreed upon.”
CBC assured that the violations of the second episode indicate “the persistence of the producer and the presenter in going against CBC’s editorial policy,” the statement read.
Committing to CBC’s editorial policy, the statement said, is a clause stipulated in the contract with Youssef.
Sources at the show told Mada Masr that the episode was submitted today at 2 pm, and nobody informed them that it would not be shown. The production team found out at the same time as the rest of nation, when the CBC statement was read by Ramadan. They say that the episode did not mock Commander-in-Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, but poked fun at CBC itself as well as other media outlets. They are in discussions with a lawyer.
Twitter was abuzz with condemnations of CBC’s decision, deeming it a blatant restriction of freedom of expression, and the backlash was also directed at the government for what was perceived as a politicized decision.
Presidential spokesperson Ahmed el-Moslemany said that the presidency respects freedom of expression and opinion, adding that a decision by any channel to suspend a show is an internal matter, according to ONTv.
A Twitter account for the show, that is unverified, said the episode will be uploaded on YouTube shortly after the decision to ban it.
Reform leader and former Vice President for Foreign Affairs Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on his official Twitter account that, “Freedom of expression is the mother of freedoms. If only limited to those we agree with, then it is a hollow slogan.”
Baradei, who left the country for Austria on August 18 after resigning in objection of the forcible dispersal of two sit-ins demanding the reinstatement of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, added that, “Courage is in defending it [freedom of expression], not in suppressing it.”
“Respect and appreciation to Bassem Youssef,” Baradei said.
People who attended the taping of the second episode reportedly said that Youssef did not mock the army, but mocked the channel itself and its “double standards.”
According to CBC’s statement, “Al-Bernameg’s” producer did not commit to producing the agreed upon number of episodes in the first year despite receiving his full payment, and he asked for more money to produce new episodes which is in violation of the contract.
“Therefore, the board has decided to suspend the program until the technical and commercial problems with its producer and presenter are resolved,” it said.
Last week, CBC issued a statement distancing itself from the content of the satirical show’s first episode.
On her show “Hona al-Asema,” prominent talk show host Lamis al-Hadidy read CBC’s statement in which it assured that it stands by the public will.
“[The channel] is committed to avoiding innuendos or scenes that mock the people’s feelings or state symbols,” the statement read.
CBC also pointed out that it practices freedom of expression and underlined its “support for the January 25 and June 30 revolutions.”
In his comeback episode last week, Youssef did not hold back; mocking ousted President Mohamed Morsi and those who still speak of his return, as well as the pro-military government and those who idolize the army, although he did not criticize Abdel Fattah al-Sisi directly.
Only two days later, four complaints had been filed against Youssef for insulting the military and employing sexual innuendos as well as spreading chaos and threatening security by “insulting the June 30 revolution.