When comedian Jon Stewart wrote the TIME 100 profile for his counterpart in Egypt, Bassem Youssef, he noted the similarities of their work hosting satirical television programs, and then he noted the one glaring difference: “He performs his satire in a country still testing the limits of its hard-earned freedom, where those who speak out against the powerful still have much to fear,” Stewart wrote in April.
The dangers Stewart referenced have started to catch up with Youssef, whose popular but controversial show “El-Bernameg,” was suspended moments before its second episode aired earlier this month. Youssef, a heart surgeon-cum-talk-show-host, faced criticism for mocking the nationalist fervor that developed since the military pushed out democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi four months ago. CBC, the private station that carries the program, cited Youssef’s refusal to “commit to the editorial policy.” Last week, Egypt’s public prosecutor referred 30 complaints filed against Youssef, including for offending army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, to the attorney general, opening the satirist up to prosecution.
And then on Sunday, el-Bernameg’s production company announced it had terminated the contract with CBC rather than agree to restrictions to the content, effectively killing the popular show.
But don’t think this is the end for Youssef. For one, he was just as critical (if not more so) of Morsi—and he faced just as much backlash. Youssef was charged with, among other things, “insulting Islam” and was briefly arrested in March. But the show continued up until Morsi’s ouster.
And Youssef, who was silent for nearly two weeks after his show was abruptly halted, has already reentered the fray. Rumors have surfaced on the web of interest from other broadcasters, and in the unlikely case that no one will have him, he could return to his roots on YouTube, where his show had its beginnings.
“I am not with the [Islamists], who attacked us and declared us apostates… At the same time, I am not with hypocrisy, deification of individuals and creation of pharaohs,” Youssef wrote in his column in the independent newspaper Al-Sharouk. “We are afraid that fascism in the name of religion will be replaced with fascism in the name of nationalism.”’