A television presenter who faced three years in jail for insulting the people of Egypt was acquitted by a Cairo court on Monday.
Tamer Amin, whose TV show is currently suspended, also faced a heavy fine if he was convicted.
Mr Amin was taken to court over comments he made on his show in February criticising rural couples for not embracing family planning. He was charged with sedition and disturbing the peace.
Mr Amin apologised for his comments in a video clip released on social media, but a little-known lawyer filed a complaint that led to his trial before a criminal court in Cairo’s eastern Madinat Nasr suburb.
In his complaint, Ashraf Nagy said the presenter showed contempt for a large segment of the population and disturbed the country’s peace and security.
“He has harmed the public interest and the prestige of Egypt and its pioneering role in the Arab region,” he wrote in the complaint.
Mr Amin’s show, Akher El Nahar, has been suspended by the private Al Nahar network, but it was not immediately clear whether his acquittal would lead to the lifting of his suspension.
The state agency in charge of media also suspended him.
His comments raised the ire of many in Egypt, including women’s rights activists who said Mr Amin’s knowledge of rural areas was so superficial he had no right to speak about conditions there. Other television talk show hosts berated him for his comments.
Mr Amin’s comments came during a week when President Abdel Fattah El Sisi spoke at length about the economic challenges his government faced as a result of Egypt’s rapid population growth.
Mr Amin courted controversy in 2018 when, in an effort to persuade the government to raise the salaries of police officers, he interviewed the wife of an officer who complained to him about the economic hardship her family endured.
The interview backfired when the Interior Ministry, which runs the police, said it insulted policemen and their families.
Mr Amin was detained for questioning for several days.
In December, he was given a suspended two-year sentence after he was found guilty of breaking a law on public insults and breaching privacy rules when he mocked a Dubai-based model on television in June 2019.
On his show in February, Mr Amin said a high percentage of Egyptians living in rural areas had children for the sole purpose of sending them to work at a very young age, so they could help with their families’ finances.
He said many rural parents sent boys as young as six to work.
In a comment that stung many Egyptians, he said girls born to families in Upper Egypt – the area stretching south from Cairo to the Sudanese border and known as El Saeed – were “shipped” to Cairo to work as domestic helpers.
Egypt has one of the fastest population growth rates in the world.
Its population of 100 million is set to reach 121 million by 2030 and 225 million by the end of the century, if the annual birth rate – more than two per cent – remains unchanged, according to UN estimates.