Cairo: A controversial TV programme, notorious for broadcasting leaked phone calls of anti-government activists, was this week taken off air after a row between its host Abdul Rahim Ali and Egyptian business tycoon Najeeb Sawiris.
The row started after Sawiris criticised Ali’s programme called ‘The Black Box’ in a tweet.
“Watching a second episode presented by the detective Abdul Rahim Ali will make me sympathise with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Sawiris tweeted on Thursday.
Sawiris, the co-founder of the Liberal Egyptians Party, is a vocal critic of the Brotherhood, who governed Egypt for a year after Mubarak’s ouster, but was deposed by the army in mid-2013 following protests against their rule.
Sawiris’ remark infuriated Ali. “I am not a detective. The information I broadcast comes to my house and I don’t seek it,” Ali said in the last episode broadcast on Sunday night.
In the same episode, Ali lashed out at several Egyptian businessmen, including Sawiris, for failing to deliver on promises to donate to a fund set up by President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi to revitalise the country’s ailing economy. Ali even accused Sawiris of having given $7 billion to the Brotherhood when they were in power. “You killed our children in Sinai using the weapons the Brotherhood bought with the money you gave them,” Ali said, addressing Sawiris, while referring to a spate of deadly attacks by suspected militants against security forces in the restive peninsula.
The accusation prompted the channel, owned by Egyptian advertising mogul Tareq Nour, to abruptly stop the show.
”Al Qahera Wal Nas Network will not allow itself to be a forum for a public dispute between two persons,” the broadcaster said in a statement. “Out of its keenness to stop conflicts that may destroy rather than build and promote disunity rather than cohesion at a time when the nation is engaged in a battle for building the future and combating terrorism, we announce the suspension of the ‘Black Box’ programme.”
Ali, meanwhile, said the episode had been taken off air following a call from Sawiris to the TV owner. “I have received several calls of solidarity from Egyptian and Arab businessmen expressing interest in launching a satellite TV to be named after my programme.”
Ali’s detractors accuse him of violating privacy of anti-Mubarak activists by airing their leaked calls purportedly to distort their public image. Ali has repeatedly refused to disclose the source of the leaks, prompting several lawsuits against him.
His backers, however, allege that the calls have exposed the activists as foreign agents, and their broadcasting is aimed at protecting national security.
that has gained fame in recent months on the privately owned Al Qahera Wal Nas TV for airing a series of calls involving activists, who spearheaded a 2011 uprising that forced long-time president Hosni Mubarak out of power. In some calls, the activists, some of them are already in jail on charges of holding illegal protests, were heard talking about links with foreign agencies and their role in storming the most-feared State Security headquarters in Cairo following Mubarak’s toppling.