Banned satirist says Egypt's leaders do not accept criticism

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 04, 2013 5:04 PM
Banned satirist says Egypt's leaders do not accept criticism

By Yasmine Saleh

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's most popular television satirist, Bassem Youssef, who was pulled off the airwaves last month after mocking the army chief, said on Wednesday the move showed the military-backed rulers were intolerant of opposing views.

Youssef rose to fame after the 2011 uprising that overthrew autocratic president Hosni Mubarak. He had criticized Islamist President Mohamed Mursi who took office after Mubarak and was ousted by the army in July after mass protests against his rule.

"People protested on June 30 (the first day of the protests against Mursi) to put an end to dictatorship and fascism and to welcome freedom of opinion and the first thing to be done was a fight against an opinion," Youssef said in a television interview. "You don't want to hear something that upsets you."

It was Youssef's first TV appearance since his show was shut down on November 1 by the CBC TV channel, which said the program had violated editorial policy and created public discontent.

CBC said it was suspending the show until editorial and commercial disputes with Youssef were resolved.

The move raised questions about the Egyptian authorities' commitment to freedom in a country stumbling in its political transition since the Arab Spring uprising that ousted Mubarak.

Youssef said it was hard to believe that the decision to take him off air was not politically motivated.

"How could anyone measure that all people got upset. My program is not supposed to please everyone. Such language should not be used. We are supposed to have had a revolution to end such language," Youssef said.

He said the authorities had been silent about 30 episodes of his show that mocked Mursi.

In his last show, Youssef poked fun at army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and mocked the adulation of his followers.

Critics of the military say it is tightening its grip on power and returning the country to Mubarak's era of iron-fisted rule, an allegation it denies.

Youssef said he had received offers from TV channels inside and outside Egypt to resume his show, but was waiting to resolve the legal situation with CBC before deciding on his next move.

"If you don't like my opinion, don't watch me," he said.

(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy)