CAIRO: “This is my last week presenting Akher Kalam (the final words) television show. I’m proud of my experiment with the team and ONtv channel,” broadcaster Yosri Fouda wrote on his Facebook page Monday.
He added that he ending his contract with the channel was long-awaited chance for him for “take a breath;” he described the past period of working as the hardest and most beautiful years in his career in a stressful environment. “I’ll write more soon,” Fouda added.
Fouda was considered one of the most “neutral” broadcasters towards revolutionary trends, his television show has been running for years, since he resigned from Al Jazeera channel in 2009, and was one among very few that showed some opposition to the ruling regimes.
“Akher Kalam” was suspended once before by Fouda during the year that followed Mubarak’s ousting under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in 2011, due to a banned episode criticizing the Supreme Council’s performance.
Later, in October 2011 he wrote a long article published by Al-Masry Al-Youm clarifying the reasons of his suspension, saying that it was not the channel that pressured him to stop his show, but “the system as a whole.” He added that he choose to kill his own show “with his bare hands to send two messages.”
“The first message was that we can’t continue without honest media that reflects what’s really going on,” and the second one was addressed to the press, urging them to say the truth even if that meant that they would lose their jobs.
“After all these reasons, should I bring the show back? Yes, I will.” Fouda said by the end of his article.
Will Fouda’s absence end revolutionary media?
Bassem Youssef, who ended his show this past June, wasn’t only known for criticizing former president Mohamed Morsi, but was seen as supporting revolutionary currents.
Youssef routinely satirized then-president Morsi and despite a number of lawsuits, kept his show running until this summer.
After the political movements that followed Morsi’s ousting and the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in, many voices warned that most Egyptians would not accept Youssef if he criticized Sisi.
“I’m tired of the continuing to worry about my own safety. If anything happened to me most of people would only show solidarity through a twitter hash tag.” Youssef said in a press conference last June.
Reem Maged, is another broadcaster considered as a revolutionary.
Maged has not returned to the air since June 30, 2013, she said in an interview with Al-Shorouk in November 2013. She said this move did not happen due to any demands of the channel itself, but that her contract had coincidentally ended the same day.
She added that, later it was obvious that the channel directions had changed; “they focused on confronting terrorism to reach the state’s stability, and I think that freedoms are more important.”
“Akher Kalam’s end means a deep loss for the whole media; he is an example of a broadcaster who defends freedoms and seeks the truth,” prominent broadcaster Hamdy Qandil wrote on his Twitter account Sept. 23.
Current government and media
There is no indication that the current regime has had a hand in ending any of these shows; most of them have described the environment as “stressful” in a way that makes them worry.
“The media role now is significant and ruling. You form about 90 percent of the Egyptians’ awareness. Media is more important than anything else,” President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said during his meeting with media figures as a candidate in May 2014.
Previously, and during another meeting between Sisi and editors in chief of national media, he warned directly of specific media channels that were “funded by Qatar and Turkey targeting to destabilize the state’s stability.”
“There is a state of anxiety and discomfort facing the president concerning media performance, which may raise the possibilities of a near collision,” media professor Safat Al-Alem told Sada Al-Balad Saturday Sept. 6.
He added that this is not the first time for the president to criticize the media, as he was keen to meet with them frequently during the past period.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information head of research Lamiaa Mahmoud told The Cairo Post Tuesday that the stressful environment that surrounds the media became something “obvious and noticeable, as any opponent opinion seems to be legally questioned.”
She added that there are a lot of examples including Bassem Youssef and writer Alaa Al-Aswany, who stopped his weekly article after saying that no opinions are allowed nowadays but the “one opinion.”
“Now we cannot expect anything concerning the media, anything could happen. This is a new regime and we still don’t know how the press situation will end with it.” Mahmoud said.