Egypt satirist returns to TV at a touchy time

<i>This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.</i>

CAIRO -- One of Egypt’s edgier comics is again dancing close to the precipice.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on freedom of expression in Egypt, Bassem Youssef, a political satirist whose brand of humor is often likened to that of Jon Stewart, is bringing his “Daily Show”-style program back to the airwaves this week.

Youssef’s new season, which was to have begun airing last fall, was yanked from the air after only one show amid editorial differences with the private satellite channel CBC. The show is to resume Friday night on a different outlet, MBC Egypt.

The comic is making his comeback at a sensitive time. The program -- which Youssef waggishly calls “The Program,” or “El Bernameg” in Arabic -- had poked fun at the cult of personality surrounding Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Sisi, the defense chief and de facto ruler who is widely expected to run for president. A formal announcement could come this week.


Youssef’s previous gibes about the fervor surrounding Sisi drew an angry response from some viewers, and the satirist was the target of a legal complaint. The popular comedian had also run afoul of the previous government, headed by Islamist Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi was toppled seven months ago by the army in a popularly supported coup, and a military-backed interim government assumed power. Political opponents of the current administration – including journalists, academics, activists and filmmakers – have found themselves prosecuted or jailed, sometimes on charges involving terrorism.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood has been branded a terrorist group, and the interim government often equates criticism of itself with support for the Brotherhood.

Youssef has already expressed opposition to a presidential run by Sisi, saying the military should stay out of politics.

[For the Record, 8:49 a.m. PST, Feb. 2: A previous version of this post incorrectly gave Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Sisi’s first name as Ahmed.]


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