Host of “Al Bernameg” Bassem Youssef, often called “Egypt’s Jon Stewart”, is under investigation for mocking President Mohamed Morsi, worrying many.
An investigation ordered by Egyptian prosecutors over the “Egyptian Jon Stewart” has many fearful of a crackdown on free expression as the country continues a tough transition towrads democracy.
Lawyer Ramadan al-Oksory filed a petition against popular satirist Bassem Youssef, the host of “Al Bernameg,” or “The Program.” The newly-appointed prosecutor accuses the comedian of mocking state figures, including Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
The complaint also targets the country’s largest opposition newspaper with spreading false news about the president. By using the judiciary system, the investigation has sparked worries that the new Muslim-Brotherhood government may be using tactics similar to the ousted Mubarak-regime to intimidate or silence their own critics.
A controversial new constitution was passed by popular referendum in December, though it has been criticized by human rights groups for lacking in protections of basic freedoms and minority rights.
A practicing heart surgeon, Bassem Youssef has gained a cult following ever since he launched his media career after the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. His two hour show, now airing on CBC, has targeted Islamists, and his political satire has drawn plenty of ire. The case against him is worrying for many, with a constitution that includes provisions that, among other things, forbids insults.
Mohamed Radwan, the Managing Editor of Al-Masry al-Youm, the paper now under investigation, is troubled by the approach.
[Mohamed Radwan, Managing Editor of Al-Masry al-Youm]:
“And there has been no small number, in fact a great number of complaints that they have put forwards. They want to say that the decisive factor is the judiciary. But the institution of the presidency, and I would never apologize for saying this, and those now occupying it, do not understand what it means for there to be political differences which should be solved by political means and not through the courts.”
Radwan says that the constitution has a clause that can shut down newspapers if they publish errors.
Though some do agree, many do not approve of the investigations.
[Karim, Egyptian Man]:
“When I criticise a situation that I do not like, and then my criticism is not allowed, then where is democracy? Then there is no democracy, and no free expression, when they are always saying they will allow a free press and media — so where is it then?”