Amid controversy over the cancellation of the first episode of TV presenter Moataz Al-Demerdash’s new show on Al-Mehwar channel, the channel issued a statement on Sunday to clarify the reasons behind the episode’s ban.
The channel asserted in the statement that it banned the episode, which was supposed to feature an interview with former top auditor Hesham Geneina, due to legal concerns that could pose harm to the channel given that Geneina is still on trial.
Geneina faces charges of spreading false information and disrupting security and public order, after he claimed that public funds amounting to EGP 600bn were wasted in 2015 as a result of corruption.
“The channel has followed the legal principles that stipulate that it is not legal to broadcast any discourse in any media outlet when it is related to issues currently being contended in a judicial verdict or is part of an ongoing case. The broadcasting of this episode will negatively affect the court” the statement read.
The statement added that, according to the law and Constitution, anyone who broadcasts content that could affect a judicial verdict is subject to prison time.
Al-Mehwar concluded its statement, noting that after discussions with its legal counsel, the channel’s administration reached the decision that it was necessary to postpone the broadcasting of the episode until the judiciary court settles the ongoing case to avoid any legal ramifications.
Al-Demerdash recently terminated his contract with the privately-owned MBC Masr, and moved to Al-Mehwar to present the talk show “90 Minutes”. The first episode was set to air the interview with Geneina, who was dismissed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi earlier this year.
According to a source in Al-Mehwar who spoke to Daily News Egypt on condition of anonymity, the interview with Geneina was “calm” and his decorum suggested nothing unusual. He added that the decision to ban the episode came from a sovereign authority.
The source further continued that Al-Demerdash demanded to know the real reason behind the ban if he is to return to presenting the talk show.
The source concluded by saying that Al-Demerdash will not resign, and the second episode of the programme, showing an interview between him and the retired footballer and trainer Hossam Hassan, will be aired on Monday or the following Saturday. However, he said that negotiations are taking place over whether to air Geneina’s interview on Sunday.
Al-Demerdash previously worked for Al-Mehwar five years ago when the 25 January Revolution broke out; however, his resignation was thought to be as a result of the difference in viewpoints between Al-Demerdash and the TV channel regarding the revolution. He then moved to the privately-owned Al-Hayah TV channel, followed by MBC Masr, and recently announced that he would sign a contract with Al-Mehwar.
Geneina, who is the former head of the Central Auditing Organisation, was sacked from his position by Al-Sisi in March 2016. In July 2015, Al-Sisi issued a decree giving him the power to dismiss, appoint, and replace heads of regulatory bodies. This decree contradicted the constitution stipulating that these bodies are independent from the state’s executive bodies.