Egyptian Satirist Under Government Investigation
Egyptian comedian and television personality Bassem Youssef is currently under investigation for accusations that he insulted President Mohamed Morsi. The prosecutor general ordered the investigation following a formal complaint against Youssef by an Islamist lawyer. The complaint accuses him of “insulting” Morsi, and “undermining his standing”. Human rights organizations point out that the case coincides with the inhibition of free speech in Egypt. “The greatest threat to freedom of expression over the last four months has been this rise in criminal defamation cases, whether it is on charges of defaming the president or the judiciary,” said Heba Morayef, Egypt director of Human Rights Watch. ”The problem is now we are likely to see an increase in this because criminal defamation is now embedded in the constitution,” she added.
Meanwhile, Egyptian independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm said that President Morsi’s office had filed a formal complaint which accused the paper of “circulating false news likely to disturb public peace and public security and affect the administration.” Additionally, the paper said a reporter and an editor have been summoned for questioning on the matter.
Dan Murphy pointed out that, “The growing use of the courts to silence critics, comedians, and dissenters is a clear trend in Egypt, and Egypt’s new constitution will make such prosecutions easier than they were under the old one.” Elliot Abrams expressed concern that the U.S. has remained largely unresponsive to these issues. ”If Morsi is repeating the Mubarak formula, so are we: ignoring human rights violations by the ruling regime in Egypt if the government follows an acceptable course in foreign policy. America’s silence is deafening,” he wrote.