An Egyptian comedian who shot to fame in the country with his amateur YouTube videos during the national uprising in 2011 is facing an investigation over one of his televised routines, as prosecutors allege that the jokes have insulted and ‘undermined the standing’ of President Mohamed Morsi, who came into office in June last year.
Following a formal complaint lodged against Dr Bassem Youssef’s show Al Bernameg (‘The Program‘) on satellite network CBC, concerns have intensified over levels of press freedom in the African country which recently took on a new ‘Islamist-backed constitution’, with the news that an independent newspaper (al-Masry al-Youm) is also being officially investigated after claims by the presidency of ‘circulating false news’.
Bassem Youssef, who became popular with his satire of political figures on webseries The B+ Show during the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s rule, was soon awarded a three nights-a-week show on CBC that has been likened to Comedy Central series Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in the USA, the presenter of which is noted as being Youssef’s biggest influence.
On the show, 38-year-old Dr. Youssef is noted as having ‘lampooned’ many figures in the public eye, including fellow TV presenters, politicians, and famous Muslim scholars, and though some of the content has drawn ‘controversy’ and complaints in the country, they are said to have amounted to nothing, though producers are now on their toes after the alleged offence of President Morsi, with the complaint lodged by an independent ‘Islamist lawyer’.
The sketches in question included one where Morsi was portrayed as a pharaoh called ‘Super Morsi’ holding onto ‘executive and legislative powers’, and another where Morsi’s image was superimposed on a pillow with recent speeches parodied.
The complaint against Al Bernameg (an episode of which can be sampled below for those that can understand Arabic) is a controversial one that hopefully will not come to any action against the ‘satirical surgeon’ for the sake of press freedom, but provided the Egyptian audience got a few laughs out of the show, will Bassem Youssef be able to carry on with what would be considered rather tame ‘envelope-pushing’ in other countries around the world?