CAIRO Jan 1 An Egyptian satirist who made fun
of President Mohamed Mursi on television has been accused of
undermining his standing and will be investigated by
prosecutors, a judicial source said on Tuesday.
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 criticised by
rights activists for, among other things, forbidding insults.
Youssef rose to fame following the uprising that swept
Mubarak from power in February 2011 with a satirical online
programme that was compared with Jon Stewart's Daily Show.
He has since had his own show on Egyptian television and
mocked Mursi'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" Mursi, 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.
"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 the New
York-based Human Rights Watch.
"The problem is now is we are likely to see an increase in
this because criminal defamation is now embedded in the
constitution," she said.
Rivals accuse Mursi, who won Egypt's first freely contested
leadership election in June, of polarising society by foisting a
divisive, Islamist-leaning constitution on the country and using
the autocratic ways of his deposed predecessor.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alison Williams)