Egypt comedian Bassem Youssef off air ahead of elections

Bassem Youssef's TV network says that his show is off air to avoid influencing voters.

A bodyguard secures popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef, who has come to be known as Egypt's Jon Stewart, as he enters Egypt's state prosecutors office on March 31, 2013.  Amr Nabil / AP Photo
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CAIRO // Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef will stay off the air until after next month’s presidential election to avoid influencing voters, his television network said on Saturday.

The May 26-27 vote is widely expected to be won by former army chief Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who is riding a wave of popularity after removing Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Mr Youssef, nicknamed the “Egyptian Jon Stewart” after the American comedian he emulates, rose to prominence with his weekly show Al-Bernameg (The Programme), poking fun at Mr Morsi and his supporters during the Islamist’s turbulent year in office.

The former heart surgeon would be on holiday until May 30, the Saudi-owned MBC Masr television channel said in a statement.

The decision was taken to “avoid influencing the Egyptian voters’ opinions and public opinion”, the channel said, adding it was “keen on respecting the electoral process” in Egypt.

Since his show returned in October, Mr Youssef has turned his attention to Egypt’s interim authorities, poking fun at Mr El Sisi and the frenzy surrounding him at a time when few dare to criticise the retired field marshal.

A tide of resurgent nationalism has swept Egypt, with Mr El Sisi hailed by supporters as the country’s saviour for driving Mr Morsi from power in July and launching a bloody crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Youssef was prosecuted under Mr Morsi’s rule, allegedly for “threatening public security” and “insulting religion”.

* Agence France-Presse