Ramadan TV series 'Ahl Eskendereya' pulled after state pressure, says show's writer

Ahram Online , Wednesday 25 Jun 2014

Screenwriter Belal Fadl says anticipated TV series will not run in Islamic holy month due to alleged pressure from Egypt's state security apparatus

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Still from a TV show screenwriter and journalist Belal Fadl previously hosted

After days of speculation and controversy, Egyptian screenwriter and journalist Belal Fadl has announced via Facebook that his latest TV series, Ahl Eskendereya ("People of Alexandria"), will not be shown on any state-owned or private TV channels during the month of Ramadan, as had been scheduled.

Two days earlier, Fadl said in another Facebook statement that Al-Haya TV and Al-Mehwar, the two channels set to air the series, had withdrawn from the deal to buy the drama only days before the first eight episodes were to be turned in.

The news came as a surprise, especially since both channels had already started running promotional trailers for the series. It was circulated that the sudden decision came after both channels had received warnings from unidentified security sources, which caused an angry uproar on social media platforms.

Later that same day, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm's website, it was confirmed by Hassan Hamed, head of Cairo's Media Production City, that the decision not to air the series was indeed the result of pressures from the state's security apparatus.

In addition to the political stances of several actors in the series, including Fadl himself as well as actors Amr Waked and Basma, all vocal members of the political opposition, it is also likely that the series, directed by Khairy Beshara, is being banned because of its portrayal of a corrupt police officer.

The day after Al-Masry Al-Youm's announcement, some media outlets claimed that Al-Haya TV would be showing the series after all, as per a statement from the channel’s legal consultant.

However, Fadl's latest statement refutes this news, affirming that he received a call from Media Production City officials who informed him of troubles with the production process of the series.

In what Fadl calls "stopping the series from its source", the Kuwaiti TV station which had co-produced the series for months suddenly withdrew from the project, reportedly to avoid a crisis with the Egyptian government. Without the Kuwaiti station's participation, it's no longer possible to continue shooting Ahl Eskendereyya in time for Ramadan, which is likely to start on 29 June, Fadl said.

"All kinds of pressure have been applied to ban this series in a disguised manner," Fadl wrote. "More than one channel refused to buy it because of the political positions of the artists behind it … even [Egyptian] state-owned channels, including Nile Drama, would not show it, even though Media Production City, a governmental body, is a co-producer."

"This didn't happen in the era of deposed [president] Hosni Mubarak, despite all his tyranny," Fadl continued.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Samir, chairman of Al-Haya TV, said that the series will not be screened as planned strictly for production-related reasons.

"This does not necessarily mean the series will not show at all," Samir said. "It still has a chance after Ramadan."

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is a very popular time for TV series throughout the Arab world.

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