In another sign of the silencing of dissent in Egypt, a popular political satirist, Bassem Youssef, announced Monday that his weekly television show had come to an end.
Speculation had grown about the fate of the prime-time show, “The Program" – “Al Bernameg," in Arabic -- which aired on MBC Masr, the Egyptian service of the Saudi state-owned MBC network.
It was scheduled to resume Friday night after the channel ordered a hiatus to avoid "influencing people's votes" during last week's presidential election in Egypt. But the show was canceled without explanation.
Its fans speculated that Saudi Arabia -- a key ally of Egypt’s former military ruler, Abdel Fattah Sisi – wanted to avoid broadcasting criticism of the election, which Sisi is presumed to have won overwhelmingly. Official results are expected Tuesday.
Youssef, whose brand of humor is often likened to that of Jon Stewart, said Monday that he and his crew had been pressured to lower the tone of their political criticism. He concluded that it was better to end the show than "offend" it by altering its content.
"The show in its current shape will not be allowed to return on any Egyptian or Arab channel," Youssef told a news conference. "The environment that we live in is not suitable for the show, and I am tired, and we are at the end of our tether."
He added that canceling "The Program" sent a stronger message than anything in the show.
Die-hard Sisi supporters, who were delighted with Youssef's past criticism of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, could not stand it when the comedian aimed his jabs at the cult of personality that surrounded Sisi when he took over in a military coup last summer.
The Egyptian satellite channel CBC stopped broadcasting the show in October, following accusations that Youssef had insulted the armed forces as well as Sisi’s supporters.
Adding fuel to the fire over personal freedoms in Egypt, the country’s Al Watan newspaper reported Sunday that the Interior Ministry would soon propose regulations giving it access to individuals' social media accounts.
The access would enable the ministry to pursue individuals accused of plotting or taking part in "electronic crimes," the report said.