Egypt cracks down on satirists and media

Al Jazeera reports: An Egyptian satirist who has made fun of President Mohamed Morsi on television will be investigated by prosecutors following an accusation that he undermined the leader’s standing, a judicial source has said.

Bassem Youssef’s case will likely increase concerns over freedom of speech in the post-Hosni Mubarak era, especially when the country’s new constitution includes provisions criticised by rights activists for, among other things, said the source on Tuesday, forbidding insults.

In a separate case, one of Egypt’s leading independent newspapers said it was being investigated by the prosecutor following a complaint from the presidency, which accused it of publishing false news.

Youssef rose to fame following the uprising that swept Mubarak from power in February 2011 with a satirical online programme that has been compared to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show in the US.

He has since had his own show on Egyptian television and mocked Morsi’s repeated use of the word “love” in his speeches by starting one of his programmes with a love song, holding a red pillow with the president’s face printed on it.

The prosecutor general ordered an investigation into a formal complaint against Youssef by an Islamist lawyer. The complaint accuses him of “insulting” Morsi, an Islamist backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, and “undermining his standing”.

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.

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