Egyptian TV host suspended as network slams content 'demotivating the army'

Marina Barsoum , Sunday 26 Oct 2014

TV anchor Mahmoud Saad is prevented from going on-air after a guest on his regular show refers to the 1967 defeat of the army

 TV anchor Mahmoud Saad
TV anchor Mahmoud Saad

A popular Egyptian talk show presenter was suspended Saturday, becoming the latest of several TV hosts denied airtime for being critical of ruling authorities.

Mahmoud Saad, who hosts "Akher El-Nahar" show four nights a week on Al-Nahar TV, went along with his crew on time but were told they would not go on air without prior notice, sources close to the crew told Ahram Online.

The private TV channel slammed "demotivating the army" without directly citing this as a reason for the suspension. Meanwhile, the host and crew of the programme refused to comment on the matter.

The channel issued a public statement the following day firmly stating that it will make "substantial changes" in its political programmes, adding that it will also take action with regard to the production of live programmes.

"The channel will prohibit the appearance of a number of guests who promote ideas that weaken the morale of the Egyptian army," the statement read.

On Friday, Egypt's North Sinai has witnessed two deadly attacks that killed at least 31 soldiers. All TV channels, including Al-Nahar, were mourning the martyrs.

Saad and many other programme anchors decided to wear black ties in solidarity and in condolence with the soldiers' families following Friday's attacks.

However, Friday's episode of "Akher Al-Nahar" show hosted psychologist Manal Omar, who was continuing a series of episodes analysing the personality of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

During her analysis, Omar recalled El-Sisi's words, as Egypt's defence minister during a celebration of the army in October 2013, about how the Egyptian people stood in solidarity with the military during the defeat of 1967.

The statement of the channel highly criticised speaking about the memory of the Naksa — the humiliating military 'setback' of June 1967 — at a time when Egypt was mourning the death of 29 soldiers killed in terrorist attacks in Sinai.

"At the time where we should be crying at the great loss of our defenders in Sinai, the guests went to recall the 1967 defeat," the statement read.  

The audience of the show were surprised when they found Khaled Salah, editor-in-chief of Youm7 newspaper and an anchor on the channel, hosting Saturday's show instead of Saad.

"As long as there is an absence of a clear code of editorial principles for each channel we will be always facing these kinds of issues, whether on ONTV, Dream or any other private channel," Yasser Abdel Aziz, a media expert and member of an advisory council of experts formed last week by presidential decree and tasked with improving the media, told Ahram Online.

Abdel Aziz highlighted that Egypt is currently paving the way for comprehensive media reforms, underlining that to date "Egypt has no media system or rules."

In June, another privately owned channel suspended two broadcasters — one for making light of mob sexual assaults against women in Cairo's Tahrir Square during celebrations for President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's inauguration, and another for hanging up on Ethiopia's ambassador to Cairo during a live phone-in about Addis Ababa's Grand Renaissance Dam project.

Separately, the show of a pro-government anchor was suspended due to her statements about the Moroccan people and Morocco's leaders.

Recently, transmission was cut on Dream TV anchor Wael El-Ebrashy while on air, apparently for anti-government comments.

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