Bassem Youssef, the Egyptian doctor-turned-TV-host who is known as “The Jon Stewart of the Arab World,” will no longer present his satirical news program, Al Bernameg. At a press conference in Cairo on Monday, Youssef said the show had been cancelled due to pressure on its broadcaster, MBC Masr. “The present climate in Egypt is not suitable for a political satire program… I’m tired of struggling and worrying about my safety and that of my family,” he said according to reports. A daring public voice and equal-opportunity offender who used comedy to poke fun at the government and state of affairs in Egypt, Youssef’s cancellation will be seen in many circles as a blow to freedom of speech in the region. At the top of last night’s Daily Show, Stewart addressed the turn of events surrounding his friend in a segment titled “A Farewell to Egyptian Satire.” In the clip (see video below), Stewart said in part, “Bassem Youssef and his team did a tremendous show under harrowing conditions, and while they’re not on the air for now, their work will continue to inspire us all here at this show. Congratulations to them on a job very well done.”
Youssef first made international headlines in April 2013 when he was summoned for questioning by Egypt’s public prosecutor after an arrest warrant was issued on accusations he insulted then Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Islamic faith. Charges were ultimately dropped, but he continued to stir up controversy. Egyptian broadcaster CBC pulled the plug on Al Bernameg last year when Youssef joked about supporters of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former Army chief who last week won the presidential election. In February this year, Saudi-owned Egyptian broadcaster MBC Masr picked up Al Bernameg, but in April put it on hiatus so as not to influence the public opinion of voters. It was due to return on May 30, but did not air. Sources told Reuters the episode’s script made fun of the election.
Youssef, a former heart surgeon, who is also a practicing Muslim, rose to popularity with satirical videos he posted on YouTube during the Arab Spring. He segued to satellite TV where his Daily Show-like news mag was watched by a reported 30M viewers across the Middle East. He first appeared on Stewart’s Daily Show in June 2012. In April 2013, Stewart defended his friend following the arrest warrant. Later that month, Youssef again appeared on The Daily Show, and in June, Stewart visited Al Bernameg in Cairo. Here’s Stewart weighing in on his pal’s cancellation last night: