Bassem Youssef ‘plagiarism’ case causes flurry in Egyptian media
Bassem Youssef - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: Popular satirist Bassem Youssef, who hosts the TV show El Bernameg, caused a wave of controversy the past few days in the Egyptian media, following accusations of plagiarizing an article for his column in Al-Shorouq.

Youssef published an article Tuesday on Al-Shorouq about Russian President Vladimir Putin and the situation in Ukraine, which was soon after discovered to have been originally written by Ben Judah for Politico.

The case has dominated Egyptian talk shows, and media figures launched a wave of criticism against Youssef.

Referring to the case on a Thursday episode of his program “Facts and Secrets” on Sada el-Balad TV channel, journalist and former parliamentarian Mostafa Bakry said “we will track anyone who makes a mistake professionally or politically, [and] we will expose anyone who tries to harm this country’s institutions.”

Bakry further called on Youssef to participate in an on-air debate so that he may ask him a series of important questions regarding El Bernameg.

Bakry and Youssef have been the main players in a long-going spat, each with his own set of allegations against the other. Youssef’s critiques have mainly been pitted at Bakry’s claims with regards to the sources of his information, which Youssef has suggested are dubious.

Meanwhile, Bakry has launched several attacks against Youssef, claiming that his satire undermines the status of the country and its institutions.

Further, journalist Ahmed Moussa also said on Wednesday, during an episode of his program on Sada el-Balad channel, “Youssef committed a disaster when he copied an article published in the foreign media.”

Television presenter Amr Adib similarly interjected on his program “Al-Kahera Al-Youm,” or Cairo Today, saying, “Bassem, I wonder what else you have copied before [this].” Adib also pointed to a hashtag that is trending on the Twittersphere, saying “Bassem is a thief.”

Adib added that everyone makes mistakes, but that the country is going through a critical time, calling on the popular satirist to be supportive of Egypt.

Yet, despite the backlash Youssef has received, politician and presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabbahi came to his defense Thursday during an interview on the TV show “Momken” on CBC.

“It is necessary that the culture of apology prevails, and that society accepts it,” said Sabbahi.

Youssef had later apologized for the offense, claiming that “work pressures” were the reason he did not attribute the article to Judah. Judah later tweeted that he accepted Youssef’s apology.

A large part of Youssef’s platform in his latest season of El Bernameg has centered on a critique of the Egyptian media, where he has bet himself against a majority whom he has portrayed as largely partisan and unprofessional.

However, this comes in a larger context whereby, despite the existence of copyright laws, there is a general laxness in applying them in Egypt. Further, while the Press Syndicate has repeatedly suggested the development of a formal media code of ethics, no official steps have been taken as of yet.

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