Egypt orders ban on SNL Arabia over 'sexual expressions'

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016 file photo, people wait for this first "Saturday Night Live Arabia," show to start in Cairo, Egypt. An Egyptian official says authorities have ordered a ban on airing the Arabic version of the hit U.S. satirical show Saturday Night Live for allegedly using “sexual expressions.” Ahmed Salim of the Supreme Media regulations Council told The Associated Press Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 that an investigation of the show’s content showed that SNL Arabia has consistently used inappropriate “sexual phrases and insinuations and that the show’s entire content “violates ethical and professional criteria.”(AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File )

CAIRO — Authorities in Egypt have ordered a ban on airing the Arabic version of the hit U.S. satirical show Saturday Night Live for allegedly using "sexual expressions," an official said Tuesday.

An investigation of the show's content by the Supreme Media Regulatory Council showed that SNL Arabia has consistently used inappropriate "sexual phrases and insinuations that should not be presented to viewers," Ahmed Salim of the council told The Associated Press. The show's entire content "violates ethical and professional criteria," he said.

SNL Arabia was first aired in Egypt two years ago. It follows an identical format to its U.S. namesake, featuring celebrity guests, comedy sketches, musical performances, videos and parody news. It has stayed well away from politics.

The show is produced by the United Arab Emirates' pay-tv network OSN and has been aired most recently by Egypt's ON ENT. The station's chief, Mustafa el-Saqa, told the AP they have stopped airing the show's promos since the ban was announced late Sunday. He did not say whether Saturday's episode would be aired or not.

"We are now negotiating with the Supreme Council in an effort to continue to air the program," he said. "I hope they understand that we are airing the program late at night and flag it for an audience that is 18 or older," he said.

Repeated telephone calls to the producers of SNL Arabia went unanswered.

Two comedians from Egypt's hit satirical show al-bernameg — Shady Alfons and Khaled Mansour — star in the Arabic SNL.

The al-Bernameg, modeled after the U.S.'s "Daily Show," was hosted by popular heart surgeon-turned-satirist Bassem Youssef. It was taken off the air in June 2014, the month when Egypt's general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took office. Youssef now lives in exile in the United States.

As defense minister, el-Sissi led the military's 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi and went on to oversee the biggest crackdown on dissent in Egypt's modern history, jailing thousands of Islamists before broadening the crackdown on dissent to include secular activists. He has also silenced most critics in the media and rolled back most of the freedoms won as a result of a 2011 popular uprising that toppled the regime of autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak.

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