Last updated: 19 April, 2014

Egypt satirist Youssef goes off air to avoid influencing voters

Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef will stay off the air until after next month’s presidential election to avoid influencing voters, his television network said on Saturday.

The May 26-27 vote is widely expected to be won by former army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who is riding a wave of popularity after ousting Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Youssef, nicknamed the “Egyptian Jon Stewart” after the American comedian he emulates, rose to prominence with his weekly show Al-Bernameg (The Programme), poking fun at Morsi and his supporters during the Islamist’s turbulent year in office.

The former heart surgeon would be on holiday until May 30, the Saudi-owned MBC Masr television channel said in a statement.

The decision was taken to “avoid influencing the Egyptian voters’ opinions and public opinion”, the channel said, adding it was “keen on respecting the electoral process” in Egypt.

Since his show returned in October, Youssef has turned his attention to Egypt’s interim authorities, poking fun at Sisi and the frenzy surrounding him at a time when few dare to criticise the retired field marshal.

A tide of resurgent nationalism has swept Egypt, with Sisi hailed by supporters as the country’s saviour for driving Morsi from power in July and launching a bloody crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood.

Youssef was prosecuted under Morsi’s rule, allegedly for “threatening public security” and “insulting religion”.