Egypt in TV: Sisi's UN speech, Bassem Youssef's bad manners, a women's coup

What's been on the small screen in Egypt lately, from our TV correspondent Nour Youssef. 

Egypt’s talk show hosts may have always been unethical and unprofessional, but they have never been quite this childish. It is hard to watch Ahmed Moussa giggle whenever his guests call the Qatari royal family and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan names (for their support of the Muslim Brotherhood), and not think of my fourth grade arch enemy, Khaled Picksnosealot.

Last month there were five on-air fights (followed by numerous opportunities for the analysis and re-iteration of insults). One of the fights ended with business tycoon Naguib Sawiris comparing Al Kahera Wal Nas’s Abdelrahim Ali to (who has become infamous lately for playing private telephone conversations of activists, undoubtedly leaked to him by the security services) "an annoying fly that gets into the mouths of others" and another was started by the unknown founders of a failed Tamarod-like movement who complained about not getting a share of the praise for toppling president Mohamed Morsi in a seventh grade history book.

 “(Mohamed Hassanein) Heikal is the one who made the theory that has held us back all this time!” announced Tamer Amin, who’s had enough of the reverence that the veteran political analyst and historian enjoys in the media. According to Amin, Heikal is guilty of giving the same advice to every Egyptian president: To put only those he can trust, and not those who are competent, in positions of leadership -- advice they all followed religiously, thus holding the country back. It is time to move on to younger thinkers, Amin says. Especially since “most of (Heikal)’s ’judgements and his political prophecies in the past years were wrong.” He ended this virtually unprecedented attack with a reminder that there are over 90 million Egyptians -- surely one of them can fill Heikal's shoes.

The strangest fight so far, however, was between satirist Bassem Youssef (who went into a forced retirement earlier this year when Egypt's "democratic transition" gave him more freedom of expression than he could handle) and AlQahera AlYoum’s Khaled Abu Bakr in New York. According to the latter’s side of the story (which is the whole story as far as the media is concerned), an unprovoked Youssef walked up to him to grudgingly say hello and then came back a moment later screaming obscenities and complaints about not being able to cycle on the Suez road unlike President Abdelfatah el-Sisi, whom he accused Abu Bakr and his colleagues of shamelessly shilling for. Youssef said all this in full view of women and impressionable children, every talk show from Tamer Amin to Osama Mounir took care to note. Even Mortada Mansour – a lawyer who has made a career of picking fights with public figures and threatening to publish the details of their affairs -- gasped at the idea of a man cursing in front of his wife, or worse yet, cursing the people of Egypt. (Anyone who has been to Egypt knows that the people of Egypt curse the people of Egypt all the time.)

The endless reprimands to “The Boy” (Youssef’s new derogatory nickname) also included suggestions of emigration and of revoking of his citizenship; a photo-shopped picture of him as a rabbi from Moussa and a monologue from Mounir about how Youssef will never be back on TV because Sisi is a “decent” man who won’t stand by as Youssef expands the vocabulary of innocent Egyptian women, making them prone to lewd behavior and talking back.

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Naguib Sawiris in London

I recently returned from London (more from there later), but unfortunately missed an event at SOAS last night at which Naguib Sawiris, the founder of the Free Egyptians party, spoke. Arabist reader Dalia Malek was there, though. For background, Sawiris is the wealthiest man in Egypt, with his family playing major roles in the telecom, construction, cement and tourism industries. He also owns OnTV, which is post-revolution Egypt has become a must-watch channel for its political talk shows and interviews of political and military figures. Sawiris has moved fast, using his wealth and influence to make the Free Egyptians the first new liberal, secular party to get going.

Naguib Sawiris and the Free Egyptians Party in London

by Dalia Malek

Last night, Naguib Sawiris gave a talk on the aims of the Free Egyptians Party at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Sharing the panel with Essam Samad from the Egyptian Association in Europe, they discussed the party’s strategies before a large and animated audience.

Sawiris engaged the audience with friendly, casual banter, making a joke about female drivers while driving a more serious point about upholding the rights of women. He spoke about education and poverty, suggesting that Egypt look toward European countries like Germany as a model.

He also derided attempts at isolating Egyptians with dual citizenship or non-Egyptian spouses from political participation.

Sawiris stated that the Free Egyptians Party does not intend to counterbalance the Muslim Brotherhood, and that his disagreement with them is strictly within the context of democratic debate. He indicated that the parties only disagree on two fundamental points: the rights of women and the rights of Copts.

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Links for 09.10.09 to 09.11.09

Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Made to measure | Interesting Amira Howeidy article on Egyptian television, notably Naguib Sawiris' face-off with Ibrahim Eissa on the former's new TV show! ✪ Khaleej Times Online - Egypt school start delayed week in swine flu fear | While swine flu infections are spreading, this decision may be as much as leaving school until after Ramadan than a medical threat, IMHO. ✪ Reuters AlertNet - Egypt: Stop Killing Migrants in Sinai | HRW Statement on shootings at the border with Israel, referencing recent al-Masri al-Youm article with killer quotes on issue. ✪ Democracy, Tunisian style | Brian Whitaker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | Brian Whitaker engages in my favorite sport, Tunisia-bashing, pointing that Tunisia's much-vaunted stability comes at the price of a presidency for life. ✪ Dennis Ross, Bill Burns, Berman talk Iran with Jewish leaders conference (UPDATED) - Laura Rozen - POLITICO.com | For big push on Iran sanctions (and more?) by Jewish-American orgs. ✪ Last gasp for global Islam « Prospect Magazine | Review of a "woe-is-us" book by former Iraqi PM Ayad Allawi on Islam. ✪ aktub | Free Arabic typing tutor.
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Links for 12-18 December

Automatically posted links for December 12th through December 18th:
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