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The End of Free Speech?

The public backlash that Bassem Youssef has received, just one episode into the long-awaited new season of Al Bernameg, has got Eihab Boraie thinking about the demise of Egyptians already-compromised ability to express themselves as they wish.

Depending on who you talk to, Al Bernameg's season premier was strong and comedic but could have gone a lot further in being critical of the factions responsible for the turmoil in this country. Al-Ahram is reporting that, despite the political satirist’s best efforts to be careful, as many as four complaints have been logged against him for defaming the military.

Luckily, no investigation has been launched yet but the situation is being shelved for the time being, acting as a ticking time bomb until a prosecutor is forced to take the case. A small section of silly concerned viewers that have a Sisi a hard-on, accuse Bassem Youssef of defaming the country by defaming the military; “The honour and dignity of Egypt and Egyptians and can only be characterised as ... blatant libel and insult that should enjoy no legal protection,” read the formal complaint.

Members of the Ana Masri (I am Egyptian) campaign have planned to protest on Wednesday against Youssef. The campaign members will gather in front of the Radio Theatre in downtown Cairo where Al Bernameg is recorded in front of live audience weekly. The protesters aim to show their resentment towards Youssef’s show.

The aftermath of the season premiere had the whole CBC network worrying about future consequences. CBC released a statement on the show Hona al-3asema, publicly distancing themselves from Youssef, stating that they support how the people feel and don't approve of anything that would affect or speak ill of any public figures in the country.

It is understandable that CBC are in damage control mode but the truth is they know very well what Bassem Youssef is up to. He was and still is a political satirist; making fun of public figures is what the whole show is about and nothing has changed except the country’s leadership. Are we officially back to the Mubarak days of worrying about what we can and cannot say? Is this the end result of the revolution that blood was spilt over?

Without a doubt Al Bernameg is the most popular show on Egyptian television and, with the ridiculous amount of commercials during each episode, it is clearly CBC's cash cow. CBC should make it very clear that they support their own programming and the greater issue of free speech. If the military wants to shut them down, then they will, in effect, anger the masses into remembering that we aren't all eed wahda and that the revolution is still unfinished.

The truth is that the show actually should have gone farther than it did. We are at a time where we are being told to sit silently and wait patiently while un-elected officials sort out a future for us all. While we stand by, accomplishing a military wish list, someone needs to stand up and speak out. There is plenty of division in the country, and the only way that it will be resolved is if a voice emerges that can unify the masses.

At the moment, Bassem Youssef is all this country’s got in the way of spreading rational thinking to millions in a turbulent time. No matter what side you are on, someone in your family was watching because we need to laugh again and, more importantly, we need to feel safer. If the military chooses to silence free speech then I don't feel any safer than at any other time in Egypt's ridiculous recent history.

Keep pushing forward Bassem, millions are behind you.


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