Egypt authorities silence conservative TV host Okasha, for now

Ahram Online , Friday 10 Aug 2012

Tawfiq Okasha's Faraeen satellite television channel, which is known for its ultra-nationalist, anti-revolutionaries, anti-Brotherhood stances, ceases transmission on Thursday evening on orders of Egyptian state authorities


An Egyptian television channel owned by prominent talk show host Tawfiq Okasha ceased transmission at 5pm on Thursday on orders of Egyptian state authorities, which ordered the station's closure for at least one month.

The order comes following a lawsuit filed by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which has accused Okasha of inciting violence against the Brotherhood and encouraging attacks on President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood's ranks.

The latest development concerning Okasha's Faraeen television channel has been used as a rallying point by both pro- and anti-Brotherhood elements to further their respective political causes.  

In May, the FJP lodged a complaint with Egypt's prosecutor-general requesting the closure of the television channel, which, the party alleged, was being used "as a tool to defame, slander and commit crimes." 

According to FJP legal consultant Ahmed Abu Baraka, Okasha has "resorted to the lowest means of delivering his media message." Abu Baraka further asserted that Okasha was using the channel to "take revenge on the Brotherhood on behalf of the ousted Mubarak regime."  

Moreover, on Wednesday evening, hundreds of demonstrators protested outside Egypt's Media Production City, located in 6 October City on the outskirts of Cairo, against what they described as media corruption. Protesters demanded the closure of the Faraeen channel and prevented guests from entering the network's studios.  

The protest turned violent when several people were attacked, including Khaled Salah, editor-in-chief of daily newspaper Youm Al-Sabea, and talk show hosts Amr Adib and Youssef El-Husseini.

Protesters refused to disperse until two programmes – one hosted by Okasha and the other by Lamis El-Hadidi on the privately-owned CBC channel – were taken off air. Protesters asserted that both programmes were actively spreading false rumours about Morsi.

As a result, the programmes' producers were forced to bring guests in through a back door to protect them from protesters.

Following the attack, Salah accused Brotherhood supporters of assaulting him and attempting to smash his car. He further accused FJP head Essam El-Erian of encouraging the perpetrators to carry out their attacks.

The Brotherhood, however, announced on Thursday that it had nothing to do with the attacks, adding that such accusations represented attempts to discredit the Brotherhood.

Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Mahmoud Hussein, for his part, denied the group's involvement in Wednesday's protests, despite claims to the contrary by some at the scene.

Hussein told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website on Wednesday night that the group did not ask its members or supporters to stage demonstrations – in any form – outside Egypt's Media Production City. He went on to say that disagreements between the Brotherhood and certain quarters of the media were "civilised disagreements" that did not call for protests or confrontations.

"We welcome news that some journalists have filed reports about the incident," Hussein said, stressing that subsequent investigations would reveal who was responsible. He added that the Brotherhood would never be involved in such acts, saying, "We were surprised to hear we were even accused of involvement."

A Brotherhood spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan, meanwhile, said the group would not tolerate any of its members assaulting Egyptian citizens, stressing that the Brotherhood's ethical principles prevented its members from physically attacking their opponents, let alone fellow Egyptians.

He concluded by laying responsibility for the incident on the media, which he accused of "fabricating crises" and promoting unsubstantiated rumours.

Okasha, who had hosted a popular television show on the channel, has adopted an increasingly anti-Brotherhood stance in recent months, especially after Morsi's election to Egypt's presidency.  

He was also a staunch supporter of Morsi's electoral rival, Ahmed Shafiq, and is known for his vocal support of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).   

Okasha, the son of the channel's owner, is also known for his anti-revolutionary stance, which was most pronounced following the military crackdown on Tahrir Square protesters in December of last year, especially following an incident in which a woman was beaten and partially disrobed by military police.

His commentary on the event left many revolutionaries enraged after he questioned the incident's authenticity.

It is not the first time for the Faraeen channel to be taken off the air. In January, it was temporarily closed following a dispute over its transmission license. 

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