The Arab Spring helped give rise to political satire that allowed a former heart surgeon to speak to millions throughout Egypt over the past three years.
Last week, Egyptians elected former Army General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as their new president with more than 96 percent of the vote. And like that, Bassem Youssef’s TV reign with “The Program” (El-Bernameg), was over.
“The present climate in Egypt is not suitable for a political satire program,” Youssef announced in a press conference from his TV studio, where he would hold a sign reading “The End” in both English and Egyptian Arabic to cancel himself. “I’m tired of struggling and worrying about my safety and that of my family.”
One journalist asked Youssef is satire was now dead in Egypt.
Youssef begged off the question, saying he only wanted to address his particular situation and TV show. As for that, it wasn’t dead. Merely “sleeping,” he noted. Don’t want to frighten the children, he added. Still, the political message from the military might was clear.
“I still believe in political satire, once it is allowed to be done. But at the end of the day, you might not be as strong to face the kind of pressures that could be exerted upon you. At the end of the day, we are a program. We are a TV program. Our only weapon is what we say on the program. Sometimes, things will be much stronger than you that will hinder you to continue the program or continue your message.”
Here is Youssef’s full announcement and press conference, mostly in Egyptian Arabic.
Youssef’s show sprung from YouTube to Egyptian satellite TV’s CBC, which had yanked him from its airwaves for upsetting the establishment. In February, Egypt’s MBC Misr. picked up the show, only to put it on hiatus in April as the elections approached. He was supposed to return with new episodes over the weekend. Instead, he announced he was done.
Here in America, 60 Minutes profiled Youssef this spring. And he certainly found a fan and ally in Jon Stewart, The Daily Show anchor here on Comedy Central who clearly had inspired Youssef. Youssef and Stewart even appeared as guests on each other’s shows.
Last night, upon hearing the news from Egypt, Stewart led his broadcast with a final salute to Youssef and his crew.
Roll the clip!