Egypt satirist who mocked President-elect Sisi cancels show

CAIRO (AFP/Reuters) - Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef said on Monday he has cancelled his television show that mocked former army chief and president-in-waiting Abdel Fattah al-Sisi because of "enormous" pressure.

The heart surgeon turned comedian, often compared to United States satirist Jon Stewart, had moved to Saudi-owned channel MBC last year after his show was suspended by the private Egyptian broadcaster CBC.

MBC's Egyptian affiliate which aired the weekly show Al-Bernameg (The Programme) said in April the show would be taken off air in May to avoid "influencing" the presidential election that Mr Sisi won.

"The circumstances and pressure were more enormous than anyone," Youssef said at a press conference. "We preferred to end the programme rather than demean it."

Mr Sisi won last week's election with more than 90 per cent of the vote, riding a wave of nationalistic fervour after deposing the elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July.

Youssef had mocked the cult-like adulation of Mr Sisi's supporters, and increasing intolerance of criticism of the retired field marshal and the army.

He also faced prosecution under the divisive Mursi, who the army overthrew after millions of protesters demanded his resignation.

Since then, the military-installed government has launched a crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood in which at least 1,400 people died in street clashes.

More than 15,000 people have been arrested, including secular activists who protested against the new regime.

"This isn't a suitable atmosphere for a comedy show," Youssef said.

Youssef's predicament will raise new questions about freedom of expression in Egypt, the most populous Arab state.

"We will all miss this theatre that we built from scratch," he said at the news conference, asking his crew to come on stage for a final gathering. "We hope to live the day when we can do the show the way we want it, with no pressures."