In a blow against satire and free speech, Bassem Youssef — also known as "Egypt's Jon Stewart" — has announced that his show is going off the air, this time for good.
The surgeon-turned-satirist announced the cancellation Monday at a press conference in his studio where he told reporters that the climate in Egypt was not suitable for his political satire and that he was tired of worrying about his and his family's safety. (Via YouTube / Al Bernameg)
Youssef's satirical program Al Bernameg ("The Program" in Arabic) has poked fun at Egypt's presidents in the past, and been at the receiving end of many cancellation attempts such as in last November when his own station refused to air the show. (Via Committee to Protect Journalists and Mada Masr)
Before that, he was arrested last April and interrogated for five hours after reportedly insulting then-president Mohamed Morsi and showing contempt toward Islam, according to Quartz.
Youssef didn't specify what specifically led to his show being canceled, but it's suspected that the new military-backed government and the nationalist atmosphere accompanying it after the ouster of Morsi may have had a hand in it.
In a recent interview with a sister paper of The Guardian, Youssef pointed out the hypocrisy of his station in post-Morsi Egypt after it pulled the plug in November: "They said I was speaking about things I should not be speaking about ... insulting national symbols. But, you know, Morsi was the president: he was a national symbol."
The Washington Post writes that it was Youssef's satirical take on the current president-elect, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, that sealed his fate. "While the Saudi-owned MBC Masr [station] picked up Youssef's show in February, Saudi Arabia is one of Sissi's primary financial backers."
The Wall Street Journal reports that Youssef, when confronted on Monday by someone saying he was simply giving up, said that "I wish to do my job but I can't. You want me to stand here and chant slogans on stage?" and said canceling the show was a sign of strength.
Youssef was awarded the International Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists last year in New York City.