Bassem Youssef’s sharp wit proves no laughing matter for Egypt prosecutor
CAIRO - Egypt's public prosecutor on Saturday ordered the arrest of popular satirist Bassem Youssef over alleged insults to Islam and to President Mohamed Morsi, state news agency MENA reported.
Judicial sources said that several complaints had been filed against Youssef, whose razor-sharp humour -- delivered on his weekly television programme Albernameg (The Show) -- has spared few public figures.
Dubbed the Egyptian Jon Stewart, Youssef has repeatedly poked fun at the ruling Islamists and Morsi in particular.
Youssef's razor sharp wit, delivered on his weekly programme Albernameg (The Show), has spared few public figures, least of all President Morsi and members of his Muslim Brotherhood.
But the heart surgeon turned comedian who enjoys a massive following has now joined the ranks of several colleagues in the media who face charges of insulting the president.
The soaring number of legal complaints against journalists has cast doubt on Morsi's commitments to freedom of expression -- a key demand of the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
In January, prominent rights lawyer Gamal Eid said that there have been four times as many lawsuits for "insulting the president" in Morsi's first 200 days in office than during the entire 30 years that Mubarak ruled.
During his election campaign, Morsi pledged to guarantee media freedom, and vowed "not to stop anyone from writing or ban any opinion" during his tenure.
But in recent months, the lawsuits have multiplied.
The new Islamist-drafted constitution does not explicitly ban the jailing of journalists for their writings, and says that newspapers can be shut down or confiscated if there is a legal ruling.
Under the penal code, people can be jailed for up to three years for insulting the president or religions. But the wording is vague and can easily be manipulated, critics say.