CAIRO - An Egyptian satirist who made fun of President Mohamed
Morsi on television has been accused of undermining his standing and will be
investigated by prosecutors, a judicial source said on Tuesday.
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 criticized by rights activists for, among other things, forbidding
Youssef rose to fame following the uprising that swept Mubarak
from power in February 2011 with a satirical online program that was compared
with Jon Stewart's Daily Show.
He has since had his own show on Egyptian
television and mocked Morsi's repeated use of the word "love" in his speeches by
starting one of his programs 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" Morsi, 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.
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 Morsi, who won Egypt's first
freely contested leadership election in June, of polarizing society by foisting
a divisive, Islamist-leaning constitution on the country and using the
autocratic ways of his deposed predecessor.