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Egypt: Resignation of Muslim presenter from Coptic TV channel sparks controversy

Coptic Christians attend a mass [File photo]

The crisis of the Coptic TV channel CTV has ended with the resignation of a Muslim presenter, as a wave of indignation rose against the channel following the announcement of recruiting the presenter a few days ago. However, many unanswered questions about the controversy are still left unanswered.

Did the churchmen and owners of CTV try to diversify the channel’s audience base and send a message to all viewers that CTV is an inclusive media platform, by recruiting the presenter? Or was it another attempt by the security apparatus to tame the channel’s voice and adjoin it to the state’s media barn along with the rest of pro-regime flocks of media outlets, as some Copts put it, through dictating the presenter’s recruitment?

A wave of anger swept the Coptic congregation following the broadcasting of the promotional video of the channel’s main program “Fi El Nour”, with the indication that journalist Ashraf Abdel Moneim will replace the two Coptic TV hosts, Nancy Magdy and Heba Kamil.

Copts circulated posts indicating their uneasiness about the appearance of Abdel Moneim in the promotional video, arguing that having a Muslim TV host will contribute to blurring the channel’s identity, in conjunction with restoring the standard shape of the letter “t” in the channel’s logo, which used to resemble a cross.

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The audience’s anger doubled, following news about the channel’s coming step, which will consist of broadcasting the Adhan (Muslim call to prayer).

Supporters of the decision defended Abdel Moneim’s recruitment and the modification of the logo shape by saying that CTV was attempting to become more inclusive, i.e. to target and attract new audiences other than the Coptic community, and expand its viewers’ base.

A few days ago, angry Copts launched a social media campaign to boycott CTV.

Coptic businessman Elijah Tharwat Bassily owns CTV, yet it is under the direct supervision of the Orthodox Church.

In the first episode of his program on CTV last week, presenter Ashraf Abdel Moneim responded to the campaign launched by the Copts against his presence in the channel and promised to defend their causes, asking them to wait and judge the program’s upcoming content. Abdel Moneim also called on the Copts to consult his journalistic career to make sure that he has always been defending the Copts’ issues.

Bassily commented, during the same episode, that change is an essential part of life, noting that: “viewers asked me to make some changes and I did. I choose to rely on competent, not trustworthy people.”

Bassily is also a member of the parliament, and the majority of Egyptian MPs are accused of being appointed by the security services.

In conjunction with the sweeping wave of disdain against him, Abdel Moneim was forced to announce his resignation on the air, during the program, to avoid further aggravating the situation.

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During a televised address to congratulate CTV and its staff for the new additions in the channel, Pope Tawadros II stated: “The change is a part of the universe and life, as life itself is always changing. Our Coptic Orthodox Church is traditional and conservative by its very nature. The essential pillars of our faith are carefully cherished and preserved. However, developing religious media channels is something to be appreciated.”

Ezzat Boulos, the editor of Copts United, criticised the Pope’s intervention, saying it was unsuccessful and went in the opposite direction as expected.

Boulos wrote in an article: “The demands to suspend a Muslim presenter from one of the channel’s main programs are a victory for sectarianism.”

He pointed out to his surprise at the comments attacking and accusing him of disloyalty and treason, in addition to a series of insults, which have no place in any conscious intellectual debate, as he puts it.

CTV is the second Coptic channel broadcasting via satellite, after Aghapy TV, under the motto “Behold, a door was opened in heaven’’, one of Pope Shenouda III famous sayings.

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