Casting a further cloud on freedom of speech under Egypt’s new constitution, prosecutors in that country have launched an investigation of Egyptian television host Bassem Youssef for disrespecting President Mohamed Morsi.
The Al Jazeera network, which has just purchased Al Gore’s Current TV, noted that “Online, Egyptians reacted to news of the investigation, calling it an affront to freedom of speech and democracy.”
Youssef, who is a heart surgeon by training, is considered Egypt’s version of Jon Stewart, and he appeared on Stewart’s Comedy Central show (see video below) earlier this year.
Youssef rose to prominence by parodying public figures during the uprising against former president Mubarak including Mubarak himself.
The BBC provides further background on the investigation of Bassem Youssef:
“A formal complaint was brought against Bassem Youssef for ‘undermining the standing’ of President Mohamed Morsi in his television show.
“Separately, an independent newspaper says it has been accused by the presidency of ‘circulating false news’ and is being investigated.
“The cases come amid increasing worries about press freedoms in Egypt.
“Many journalists have joined critics of the new Islamist-backed constitution, saying it does not offer enough guarantees of press freedoms…
“He became a household name when his satirical show — likened to Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in the US — began to be broadcast three times a week on one of Egypt’s independent satellite stations.”
“… But sketches in which he portrayed Mr. Morsi as a pharaoh, calling him ‘Super Morsi’ for holding on to executive and legislative powers, and, separately, putting the president’s image on a pillow and parodying his speeches have angered one Islamist lawyer, whose formal complaint has resulted in the investigation.”
Reuters explains that freedom of speech under the Morsi regime appears to be at risk:
“Bassem Youssef’s case will increase worries about freedom of speech in the post-Hosni Mubarak era, especially when the country’s new constitution includes provisions criticized by rights activists for, among other things, forbidding insults…
“Human rights activists say it is the latest in a series of criminal defamation cases that bode ill for free speech as Egypt reshapes its institutions after Mubarak was toppled.”
Do you think free speech will survive under the current Egyptian government? Is this a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”?
Watch Bassem Youssef on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:
Here is Next Media Animation’s take on the Bassem Youseff investigation: