Battle intensifies between Egyptian state and broadcasters
CAIRO (Reuters) - The owner of an Egyptian TV channel that satirizes Islamist president Mohamed Mursi was banned from leaving the country on Thursday, hours after Mursi attacked him by name, authorities shut down another channel and a state TV anchor resigned on air.
"This is dictatorship," a lawyer for business tycoon Mohamed al-Amin told Reuters. Amin's CBC channel has had legal run-ins before over its ridicule of President Mursi on a hit satirical program modeled on American comic Jon Stewart's "Daily Show".
Stewart appeared in person just last week as a guest of Bassem Youssef, the host of the weekly broadcast, who himself has been investigated for insulting the president and Islam.
Separately, a judicial source said a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Tawfiq Okasha, a television talk-show host and owner of the private Al-Faraeen channel, which has frequently criticized Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood. The grounds for the investigation was spreading false information.
The investment ministry, in charge of giving licenses to private channels, announced later on its Facebook page the closure of Okasha's channel for insulting the army and police and inciting the army's lower-ranked officers to launch a coup against senior officers. The channel ceased broadcasting.
Known for his on-air diatribes against Islamists, Okasha has been at liberty to work pending an appeal against a four-month sentence handed down for insulting Mursi last year.
The channel was given a one-month suspension last year, a decision Okasha had successfully appealed.
Meanwhile, state TV anchor Gamal al-Shaer resigned dramatically on air in protest at what he said were attempts by Information Minister Salah Abdel Maqsoud, of the Brotherhood, to control the program's guests and subjects.
"I apologize, as the administration of state TV has issued a decree to stop the program because the talk did not please the officials and the information minister," Shaer said.
PRESIDENT BLAMES MUBARAK LOYALISTS
In an address to the nation on Wednesday to defend himself against opponents who plan mass rallies this weekend, Mursi blamed loyalists of fallen dictator Hosni Mubarak for thwarting his first year in office. He denounced several figures by name, including judges and owners of media organizations.
"Some dream of the return of the old regime, like Mohamed al-Amin," Mursi said. "They will not be left in peace until they pay what they owe the nation in taxes."
Hours later, Amin, who also owns anti-government newspaper Elwatan, called in to a CBC show to deny any wrongdoing.
State news agency MENA said prosecutors had blocked Amin's movements while it probed suspected tax arrears of about $60 million. Officials were not immediately available for comment.
His lawyer Mohamed Hammouda called the legal move an attempt to "get him and get the CBC channel and Elwatan newspaper and force them to bend to the president's will". He said he would seek to get the travel ban lifted and would sue Mursi for defamation.
"This is dictatorship of a kind Egypt has never seen before," lawyer Hammouda said. "And an attempt to get at rivals using force, and we do not accept that."