By AbdelHalim H. AbdAllah and Joel Gulhane
The production company that created Bassem Youssef’s satirical show “Al-Bernameg” have denied reports claiming that they attempted to move the show to a different channel.
The producer’s statement was published on its verified Facebook page on Saturday evening, less than 24 hours after CBC anchor Khariy Ramadan announced the suspension of the popular and controversial Friday night show.
The production company said it “regrets” the decision taken by the CBC board of directors to cancel Friday night’s episode. The company confirmed its “commitment to deliver all episodes in a timely manner and not to break any of the contractual conditions.” The production company added that it would not “comment on any details with regards to this matter,” stressing its discontent with CBC’s statement, adding that it considers what the company has experienced as “defamation to [the company] and its employees.”
The statement also apologised to the fans of the show, stressing that the episode was delivered on time and does not conflict with “professional and legal standards.”
Activists on Friday called for a boycott against CBC channel following its suspension of the show.
Mustafa Al-Hagary, media spokesman for 6 April Movement (Democratic Front), has announced that he along with other members of the movement would refrain from making any media appearances on CBC in response to the show’s suspension.
On Friday CBC’s anchor Khairy Ramadan read a statement immediately prior to Youssef’s show by CBC board of directors head Mohamed Al Amin saying that ”Al-Bernameg” had not abided by the editorial policies of the channel – specifically ignoring the board’s first statement that followed his first episode.
Khairy added that Youssef had not delivered all the episodes that were agreed upon in his contract for the previous season, despite having received his complete fees. Al-Bernameg’s producer has also requested extra payment as a condition for producing new episodes, also in infringement of their contract, Khairy said, together leading to the suspension of the programme until all the legal and financial issues are resolved.
Activist Mohamed Abdel Hamid who was among the audience during the recording of the episode on Wednesday, assured that “the content of the episode had nothing to do with neither the military nor General Al-Sisi.”
“The two parts of the episodes were criticising the unprofessional media coverage of both ‘alleged liberal media’ and ‘the Ikhwani [Muslim Brotherhood]media’,” AbdelHamid said, adding that Youssef had voiced opposition to the first statement by CBC issued on 26 October, in which the network distanced itself from Youssef’s programme.
On Friday CBC’s anchor Khairy Ramadan made a statement immediately prior to Youssef’s show saying that ‘Al-Bernameg’ had not been abiding by the editorial policies of the channel and was consequently being suspended.
Presidential media adviser Ahmed El-Moslimany asserted in a statement that the presidency supports freedom of expression and that the CBC decision is strictly an internal matter. The army spokesman, however, has issued no statements regarding the show.
Youssef received support from former Vice President Mohamed El Baradie, who tweeted: “Freedom of speech is the mother of all freedoms; it’s hollow if it’s restricted to those who we agree with. Courage is to defend it rather than repress it. I salute Bassem Youssef.”
Various other political figures have voiced solidarity with Youssef and his show, including Youssef Al Hussainy and members of Tamarod, who have expressed their support for freedom of speech despite disagreement with the content.
On the other hand, there has been no official comment from the Islamist camp, except by Misr Al-Qawia Party spokesman Ahmed Imam, who condemned what he called “the crackdown on freedom of expression that has reached unprecedented rates since 3 July.”
“Beginning with the shutdown of the Islamist satellite channels and mass arrests of their crews, [the regime has continued]with the arrests of journalists, banning of articles, media campaigns that smear any public figure with an opposing opinion, and lastly with the suspension of a satirical show.”
Imam added such “extreme measures” reflect the “weariness of the regime.”
“Al-Bernameg”, which started as a YouTube channel called “B+” has been very controversial since its rise to mainstream media. Youssef, whose satire found major consent among the liberal camp under the government of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, has met with significantly greater resistance by liberals supporting the military, at which much of Youssef’s current satire is aimed.