For millions of Egyptians, tuning into one of the numerous political chatshows that dominate the evening TV schedules is as habitual as eating dinner or lighting up a Cleopatra cigarette.
For millions of Egyptians, tuning into one of the numerous political chatshows that dominate the evening TV schedules is as habitual as eating dinner or lighting up a Cleopatra cigarette. Anchored by heavyweight stars, the high-profile programmes have played a major role in the expansion of Egypt’s vibrant independent media sector in recent years – but that could be about to change.
After a series of resignations, business bust-ups and show cancellations, the chatshow industry has been left reeling and analysts are attributing the problems to a government crackdown on dissent in the run up to November’s contentious parliamentary elections.
One of the most popular shows, “Al-Qahira Al-Yom” (”Cairo Today) has already been pulled off air following a tussle with state-owned production studios which claim they are owed money for studio rental; the show’s co-host, Ahmed Moussa, has already dismissed the legal wrangle as a fabrication, insisting that “government malice” was behind the move and warning that “someone wants to crush freedom of expression and opinion”.
Meanwhile, rival production “Baladna Bel-Masri” (”Our Country”) has just lost its famous host Ibrahim Eissa, a prominent independent newspaper editor and outspoken government critic, who suddenly quit the show mid-season with no explanation. Although the programme producers quickly insisted Eissa’s departure was not politically motivated, Eissa, himself a veteran of many a court battle with the Mubarak regime, has pointedly refused to comment on the situation.
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