After a four-month hiatus, investigative journalist and talk show host Yosri Fouda made his much-anticipated return to the airwaves Monday night, hosting his program Akher Kalam on the privately owned channel ONtv.
“Egypt is waiting for a new constitution, a new parliament, a new president and a new state,” Fouda said as he opened the show in his signature modern standard-inflected Arabic.
Viewers quickly took to social media to express their support for the journalist’s return.
“Welcome back @YosriFouda … we really need someone like you to put us back to the track,” tweeted Sallywafik.
In an interview with the privately-owned daily Al-Shorouk shortly before his return to television, Fouda warned of certain trends that are threatening the cohesion of Egyptian society.
“From a patriotic perspective, we desperately need to put a quick end to the deterioration of the social fabric in Egypt. This is bigger and more dangerous than a power struggle,” he warned.
In Monday’s show, Fouda didn’t shy away from criticizing the state’s discourse, condemning prevalent accusations of being part of a “fifth column” that have been levied against some segments of Egyptian society. He summarized the political events of the past four months, discussed the new protest law ratified by interim President Adly Mansour on Sunday and mentioned that Monday was the global day against violence on women.
Fouda also hosted novelist Ezzedine Choukri Fishere as well as Mona Seif, one of the cofounders of the No to Military Trials Group.
Audiences have eagerly awaited Fouda’s reappearance since Akher Kalam went on hiatus shortly after former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in July. Fouda had said he needed a break to recover from a serious car accident that occurred in March, but his timing coincided with the disappearance of other independent, politically progressive voices from the media, including political satirist Bassem Youssef.
When Youssef brought his controversial comedy show, Al-Bernameg, back to television earlier this month, he took a jab at Fouda, saying “”Where are you Yosri? How come I came back on air and he hasn’t?” In a twist of fate, Monday’s re-launch of Akher Kalem comes shortly after Youssef’s show was suspended by CBC after airing only one episode.
Members of Fouda’s staff had told Mada Masr that his decision to go off-air was medical in nature and had no ties to the political situation, and that the political context at the time was purely coincidental. Fouda has also denied rumors that the delay in bringing his show back on air was due to disagreements over renewing his contract with ONtv.
But Fouda has a past history of going silent as a form of political protest. In October 2011, during the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ rule, the presenter refused to go on his show when ONtv forbade him from interviewing author Alaa al-Aswany, who was then a vocal critic of the military. Fouda said he wouldn’t go back on air unless Aswany accompanied him.
“This is my form of self-censorship. I have the choice between saying the truth or nothing at all,” he wrote in a statement on his Facebook page at the time.
Fouda pulled a similar stunt in 2012 during ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s tenure, when he refused to go on air after he was forbidden from interviewing Wasat Party MP Essam Sultan.