CAIRO: The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) issued a statement Monday condemning the government’s banning of “Hokouma Show (Government Show), a television program scheduled to run on the Nile Comedy channel.
ANHRI called the move a “blatant violation of freedom of expression and an unjust abuse of power.
The statement alleged that the program was banned due to a satirical characterization of Prime Minster Ahmed Nazif. Before the ban the show had been scheduled to air during the critical Ramadan ratings period. Fifteen episodes had been filmed at Media City though none had been broadcast.
According to Gamal Eid, director of ANHRI, the ban came from Minister Anas Al-Fiqqi of the Ministry of Information. After initially approving the video the Ministry of Information shared it with the Prime Minister’s office. Prime Minister Nazif, according to Eid, was upset over the show’s characterization of his person.
“Anas Al-Fiqqi abused his authority and power in showing the series to the prime minister. it’s against the law, the director stated.
Ayman Hamza, a representative of Nile Comedy, countered this assertion and said that they followed all the usual procedures to get the show approved.
When contacted by Daily News Egypt, representatives from Media City declined to comment on the ban.
“Hokouma Show, according to Eid contained a character “wearing a wig that looks like Nazif’s hair and imitating him with sarcasm and this was one of the main reasons for banning the show. The actor portraying the prime minister “talked about the fake governmental achievements, he added.
Hafez Abu Saeda, director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, noted that the ban was atypical for Egyptian censors. Usually a single episode will be removed or parts of an offensive episode will be censored.
The ban was also particularly extensive because it banned “Hokouma Show from both government and private television channels. “Typically the government will decide to ban a show just from government channels. Abu Saeda said.
The ANHRI report also slammed a similar move by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information to ban a similar Kuwaiti program broadcast during Ramadan, the prime season for television shows in Arab countries.
A Kuwaiti satire show called “Soatak Wasal (Your Voice is Heard) was banned for criticizing Kuwaiti parliamentarians and officials after airing just three episodes, according to the statement from ANHRI.
ANHRI also called for both governments to retract their bans in the interest of preserving freedom of expression. “If the government returns to their senses, that is the only way the show will be aired, said Eid.
Freedom of expression is protected under Article 19 of the United Nations charter. Article 48 of Egyptian constitution explicitly mentions freedom of the mass media as well. The same article also limits freedom of expression during times of emergency. Egypt has been in a state of emergency, extended every three years by a government decree, since 1981.