Egyptian prosecutors are investigating the host of a satirical political TV news show (sound familiar?) because he may have insulted the president. Bassem Youssef is facing possible charges for his frequent criticism of President Mohammed Morsi, including mockery of his speeches and complaints about his more authoritarian tendencies.
Much like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Youssef hosts a dryly named TV show, "The Program," that mocks politicians and celebrities by wrapping jokes around photos and video clips of their speeches. He began his show on YouTube during the revolution of 2011—he's actually a heart surgeon by trade—but was picked by private satellite networks and turned into one of Egypt's biggest media stars. He was even a guest on the real Daily Show last summer:
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
The report obviously concerns Egyptians who have plenty of reasons to fear that they went through a painful revolution only to replace one dictator with another. (A joke that Youssef himself has made.) Press censorship was certainly not uncommon under the old regimes, but the rise of a democratically elected government has sadly not changed the threat of sanctions against vocal critics who become too vocal. In a similar case announced the same day, a reporter and editor at one of the country's biggest daily newspapers were summoned for questioning after they reported that Morsi was planning to visit former President Hosni Mubarak in the hospital, which the president's office called "false news likely to disturb public peace."
Investigations by authorities for affronts to the government don't always result in charges, but the threat alone is often enough to intimidate and silence some critics. However, when asked on CNN last year whether politicians will ever "get the joke" Youssef said, "I don't care." The threat of censorship, of course, just gives him more material to work with.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.