Skip to main content

Egypt satirist Bassem Youssef who mocked army fined millions

Popular comedian Youssef has been told to pay his former broadcaster huge compensation for 'financial losses'
Bassem Youssef cancelled his Dubai broadcast show after being put under 'enormous pressure' (AFP)

A prominent Egyptian satirist has been fined millions of dollars over a dispute with a television channel that suspended his show after it lampooned military leaders, officials said Tuesday.

Bassem Youssef moved Al-Bernameg (The Programme) to Saudi-owned channel MBC last year after it was pulled by the private Egyptian broadcaster CBC.

The Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration fined Youssef and his company, Q-Soft, 50 million Egyptian pounds ($6.5 million) each for "CBC's financial and literary losses," CBC owner Mohamed al-Amin told AFP.

The arbitration body said the weekly show was not "purposeful and constructive" but a platform for "smearing the country's political direction".

It said that if Youssef's company failed to pay its part of the fine then he would have to shoulder it all himself.

CBC suspended Al-Bernameg in November 2013 after an episode in which the satirist poked fun at military leaders including then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The private channel said at the time that Youssef had "violated the editorial policies" of the channel.

Youssef terminated his contract with the channel after it refused to resume broadcasts of the show, a source close to Al-Bernameg told AFP.

In February 2014 he began airing the show on Dubai-based MBC but suspended it in June because of what he described as "enormous" pressure.

The doctor-turned-satirist plans to appeal the arbitration body's ruling, the Al-Bernameg source said.

"I have been forced into a commercial arbitration conflict, that I am not part of, regarding CBC's suspension of the show," Youssef wrote on Twitter.

The show's suspension triggered concerns about media freedoms in Egypt amid a brutal crackdown overseen by Sisi on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Youssef became a household name known for witty remarks lampooning public figures including Morsi, the country's first freely elected president.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.