Egypt bars Arabic version of SNL over ‘ethical violations’
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Egypt bars Arabic version of SNL over ‘ethical violations’

Regulator censors local adaptation of US satire show for 'sexual expressions, phrases, and gestures which are not suitable for viewers'

This photo from February 16, 2016, provided by OSN, shows actors taking a 'selfie' at the end of OSN's "Saturday Night Live Arabia," show in Cairo, Egypt.  (OSN via AP)
This photo from February 16, 2016, provided by OSN, shows actors taking a 'selfie' at the end of OSN's "Saturday Night Live Arabia," show in Cairo, Egypt. (OSN via AP)

CAIRO — Egypt has banned the Arabic version of US comedy “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) from television for violating ethical standards, the country’s media regulator said.

“Saturday Night Live Arabia” 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.

“The Supreme Council for Media Regulation has decided to stop the SNL in Arabic program starting from today,” the council said in a statement issued late Sunday.

“The program consistently used sexual expressions, phrases, and gestures which are not suitable for viewers and which violate ethical and professional standards.”

In this Tuesday, February 16, 2016 photo, people wait for the first “Saturday Night Live Arabia,” show to start in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

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 el-Sissi 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.

Artists say censorship has gradually expanded since Sissi — then defense minister — led the military ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, a year before he himself was elected.

Several movies have been banned, including “In The Last Days of the City,” although it has been screened in 60 countries and at 91 festivals, winning more than 10 prizes since 2016.

Another award-winning film, “The Nile Hilton Incident” directed by Tarik Saleh, a Swede of Egyptian origin, takes place in Egypt but could not be shot in the country. It was released in 2017 but cannot be shown in Egypt.

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