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Anti-regime TV host quits airwaves

A prominent Egyptian political talk show host has suspended his programme indefinitely to protest against what he said were efforts by the country's military rulers to stifle free expression.

The presenter, Yosri Fouda, has come to symbolise what many in Egypt see as the future of an independent and professional media after decades of control and meddling by the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

But the council of generals that took power from Mr Mubarak have implemented a series of measures in recent months that media and rights groups say aim to restore state meddling in the media just weeks before the country's first parliamentary elections since the revolution.

The authorities have frozen new licences for private satellite TV stations and are taking steps against broadcasters they say are inciting violence or are violating their station's mandate.

Mr Fouda, a former investigative reporter at the BBC and Al Jazeera, said in a statement posted online that his decision to call off his The Final Word programme is a protest against increasing efforts "to maintain the core of the regime which people went out into the streets to bring down, after it filled our world with corruption, immorality and treachery".

"This is a cry from the heart," he said. "Egypt deserves better than this."

An episode of Fouda's show scheduled to run on Friday was taken off the air. He did not say whether it was his decision to scrap the show or whether he was forced to cancel the programme.

"This is my way of self-censorship, either to say the truth or to be silent," he said.

Mr Fouda's programme on the private ONTV station was slated to host a vocal critic of Egypt's military rulers, internationally renowned writer Alaa el-Aswani, as well as another presenter who had interviewed two generals from the ruling military council the night before.

They were expected to discuss the interview the night before, when the generals avoided answering any specific questions about their role in the crackdown on a protest a week earlier that left 27 protesters, mostly Christians, dead.

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