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Cens-or humour: Egypt bans 'sexually suggestive' Saturday Night Live Open in fullscreen

Karim Traboulsi

Cens-or humour: Egypt bans 'sexually suggestive' Saturday Night Live

NSFP: SNL Bel Araby proved to be Not Safe For Prudes [Twitter/OSN]

Date of publication: 12 February, 2018

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Egypt has banned the Arabic version of US comedy 'Saturday Night Live' from television for violating ethical standards, the country's media regulator said, citing its 'sexually suggestive' humour.
Egypt's increasingly prudish censors have decided to ban popular comedy show SNL Bel Araby, the Arabic version of America's Saturday Night Live, citing its "sexually suggestive" humour. 

Saturday Night Live Bel Araby began broadcasting on television two years ago, with episodes shot in Cairo.

It was being aired by both the ON TV network and the Dubai-based satellite service Orbit Showtime Network.

Egypt’s Supreme Media Regulatory Council decided to suspend all broadcasts of the show on Sunday, it said in a statement.

The decision was based on investigations held by the Council’s Complaints Committee, apparently following angry messages from the public claiming the programme has used "inappropriate sexual suggestions", which contravene "ethical and professional standards", according to the statement.

The council will refer another show, El Nas El Helwa, to investigation for allegedly carrying "sexually explicit images." 

Unlike the popular US version of SNL, the Egyptian edition kept clear of harsh political satire.

That used to be the focus of Bassem Youssef, a comedian known as Egypt's Jon Stewart whose show was cancelled in June 2014, days after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected.

Youssef says he had come under pressure to end the show, and was concerned over the safety of his family at the time.

Instead of politics, it tried to focus its jokes on other aspects of life in the country.

It is not clear whether any specific sketch on SNL Bel Araby had triggered the decision, or whether its general use of innuendo has offended the Mrs Grundies of Egypt.

The move comes amid a crackdown on acts seen to be in violation of "public morality" and "religious principles" ongoing since Sisi took power in a coup in 2013, despite his claims to champion secularism.

Only last week, Egypt detained then deported a Russian belly dancer over a viral video of her performance deemed to be too suggestive. Last month, Egypt detained a singer over a "racy" video clip. 

Ahead of an election in which Sisi is the only real candidate and is guaranteed to win, the move may also be targeting satire in the country, which has often left the strongman nervous and reaching for his presidential seat.

Ossama al-Sheikh, chairman of Egyptians' Media Group that owns the network which broadcasted the show, told Vito Gate that the channel will comply with the censors' decision. 

"The show is not produced by our network; we only bought the rights of airing it," el-Sheikh told Vito Gate. 

Sheikh did not defend the show, and sided with the censors.

“We have the same reservations of the media council,” he said. 

SNL Bel Araby producers have not yet commented on the ban.

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