Bassem Youssef: "I'm tired of ... worrying about my safety and that of my family,"
He shot to fame during the 2011 revolution when he mocked Hosni Mubarak
He's gone on to satirically poke at other Egyptian leaders
In a decision many might consider a blow to freedom of dissent in Egypt, one of the nation’s most popular comedians, Bassem Youssef, announced on Monday his political satirical show will no longer air on Egyptian TV.
Youssef didn’t offer a detailed explanation for his decision but suggested outside pressure and a fear for his safety were factors.
“I’m tired of struggling and worrying about my safety and that of my family,” Youssuf said at a news conference inside a Cairo theater where he performed his weekly show.
Youssef shot to fame during Egypt’s 2011 revolution when he mocked former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak on his homemade political satire show – shot in his laundry room and posted on YouTube.
His show “El Barnameg” – “The Program” in Arabic – drew more than 5 million viewers in three months.
One year later later, Youssef had his own show on Egyptian TV where he derided Mubarak’s replacement, Islamist President Mohamed Morsy.
By then, Youssef had gained worldwide recognition and was regularly compared to American political comedian Jon Stewart.
In April 2013, Time magazine named Youssef one of its 100 Most Influential Men in the World.
Several months later, Egyptian broadcaster CBC pulled the plug on Youssef when he poked fun at the almost cult-like adoration of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – the former Army chief who is now Egypt’s President- elect.
Youssef made a comeback in February when Saudi-owned Egyptian broadcaster MBC began airing his show. Once again, he drew huge ratings and laughs with carefully crafted back-handed jokes aimed at the army chief.
Youssef’s return was cut short before Egypt’s presidential election campaign last month when MBC announced the show would be on hiatus so that “Egyptian voters’ orientation and public opinion won’t be influenced.”
But the show never returned to air as scheduled on May 30.
The end of Youssef’s show will likely fuel concern among international rights groups and pro-democracy activists who have increasingly accused Egyptian authorities of stifling dissent and freedom of speech.
“In a nutshell, we’ve gone as far as we can,” Youssef said. “We are tired of moving from one network to another network and being under emotional pressure.”