Egyptian talk show host suspends show in protest

CAIRO Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:24pm IST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - A popular Egyptian talk show host said on Friday he would suspend his programme until further notice due to increasing censorship pressure after an episode discussing the army's handling of a protest that left at least 25 dead failed to air.

"This is my way of imposing self-censorship, it is to put the right word out or to say nothing at all," a statement by Yosri Fouda said.

Fouda, whose show ran on a channel owned by Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris, was due to host outspoken Egyptian novelist Alaa el-Aswany and newspaper editor and fellow talk show host Ibrahim Eissa on Thursday.

He did not explain why his programme was not aired, but said there had been "a noticeable decline in the freedom of the media".

"A truth has been becoming more evident in the past few months that makes us feel that there are keen attempts to maintain the regime that people went out into the streets to bring down," the statement said.

His guests were expected to comment on statements made by two members of the ruling military council on another nightly talk show that aired on Wednesday in which they defended the army's crackdown on the Oct. 9 protest, blaming agitators for the violence.

Clashes between protesters, many of whom were Coptic Christians, and troops led to the worst street violence since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February and drew a storm of criticism of the army.

Egyptian generals have defended the army's actions and denied charges by activists that troops used live ammunition or that army vehicles crushed demonstrators under their wheels.

Egyptian state media was accused by activists of bias towards the military council during its coverage of the violence in which it called on Egyptians to go down into the streets to defend their army.

Fouda, whose show was widely watched and considered one of the most independent, said that recently there had been efforts to apply pressure on those who still defended the goals of the revolution.

"This is with the aim of making them voluntarily impose some kind of self-censorship about things that should not be left unsaid or beautified," he said.

Fouda is not the first Egyptian journalist to complain about censorship after the country's popular uprising.

A group of journalists launched a "white columns" initiative on Oct. 5 and left their columns blank in protest at what they called the interference of the military council with the content of some newspapers.

Egyptian authorities have sent warnings to ONTV where Fouda works and another satellite channel called Dream TV earlier this month, in what was seen by critics as a crackdown on media ahead of a scheduled parliamentary election on Nov. 28.

The Egyptian General Authority for Free Zones and Investment (GAFI) warned ONTV to bring its programming back in line with the kind of content it had obtained a licence for.

Egyptian police also raided the offices of an Al Jazeera channel in Cairo two times in September saying that the channel did not have a proper licence.

(Reporting By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

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