Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian prosecutors questioned nationally famed satirist, Bassem Youssef, on alleged charges of “insulting President Mohamed Mursi, denigrating Islam and spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order.”
Youssef, originally a cardiothoracic surgeon, now hosts a popular TV show called Al-Bernameg (“The Program”) which boasts an estimated audience of over 30 million, according to CBC.
An arrest warrant was issued yesterday, following complaints about his show at the beginning of the month. It is not the first time Youssef has received negative legal attention; the Egyptian prosecution has previously led investigations against the Youssef—the latest of which took place in January—although this is the first time the satirist has been formally named in an arrest warrant.
According to local reports, Youssef voluntarily showed up at the prosecutor general’s office on Sunday, so as to avoid arrest.
He was wearing an oversized version of a graduation hat modeled on one donned by the president when he was awarded an honorary degree in Pakistan earlier in March.
Youssef has also been on the receiving end of private complaints and threats of legal action. At the close of 2012, Emad Adeeb—a high-profile Egyptian at the same network, CBC—took legal action against Bassem Youssef. “This is not political satire,” Adeeb told Daily News Egypt in reference to Al-Bernameg, “this is slander and has nothing to do with freedom of expression; it exists everywhere.”
This is the latest case to raise concerns over press freedom under the conservative Muslim Brotherhood leadership.
“It is an escalation in an attempt to restrict space for critical expression,” said Heba Morayef, Egypt director at Human Rights Watch.
Prominent liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei said it was the kind actions only seen in “fascist regimes”. “It is the continuation of the failed and ugly moves to thwart the revolution,” he said.
However, in justification of the government’s responses to violent protests earlier this month, President Mursi recently stated, “incitement is a crime and a contribution to a crime. False news is a crime. If I have to take the necessary [measures] to preserve the security of this homeland, I will do so. And, I am sorry to say, I am about to do so.”
This article was originally published here.