Bassem Youssef draws anger over satirical attack on Egypt's military

Prosecutor receives complaints which highlight low tolerance for criticism of military, leaders

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 4:47am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 4:47am


Egypt's top prosecutor has received complaints against a popular television satirist less than 24 hours after he returned to the air, as the private television station that airs his show sought to distance itself from its contents.

The complaints and the reaction of the station, CBC, highlight the low tolerance this deeply divided country has for criticism of the military and its leaders.

On Friday night Bassem Youssef, mocked the pro-military fervour gripping Egypt.

Youssef also targeted the powerful military chief, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, lionised in the Egyptian media as a hero after leading a July 3 coup that ousted elected Islamist president Mohammed Mursi following massive protests.

By Saturday, at least four complaints had been filed with the country's top prosecutor, accusing Youssef of defaming the military, a judicial official said.

One of the complaints accused Youssef of using phrases that "undermine the honour and dignity of Egypt and its people" in a manner sowing sedition and spreading lies.

The official said no investigation into the complaints had yet started.

During prime time on Saturday night a broadcaster read a statement issued by CBC's board of directors in which the station sought to distance itself from the views expressed by Youssef on his show called El-Bernameg ( The Programme). The statement, which appeared to be a reaction to negative feedback from viewers and possibly officials, noted that the public's reaction to Youssef's Friday night show was "largely disapproving".

"CBC will continue to be supportive of the basics of national sentiment and popular will, and is keen on not using phrases and innuendos that may lead to mocking national sentiment or symbols of the Egyptian state," the station said. The station added that it was also committed to freedom of the media.

During Friday's show, Youssef imitated el-Sissi's soft-spoken, affectionate way of addressing the public, turning it into a lover's romantic groove.

In one skit, a woman named "the Public" calls in to a love-advice show raving about the love of her life who saved her from an abusive husband.

Another complainant, a group called The Campaign for el-Sissi for President, alleged that Youssef had defamed the military and its leadership through sexual innuendo, according to the Youm7 news website.

Youssef used satire to criticise Mursi during his one year in office.

Morsi supporters also sued Youssef for insulting the presidency and Islam, leading to his brief detention.

Before returning to the air after a four-month absence, Youssef predicted that he would continue to be pursued legally by his new critics "who allegedly love freedom dearly - when it works in their favour".



An former Egyptian army officer carried out the suicide bombing last month that failed to kill the country's interior minister, a video posted online by al-Qaeda-inspired militants claims.

The incident and increasing attacks in the lawless Sinai Peninsula raise fears of an escalating Islamic militant campaign of revenge over the July 3 military coup that ousted Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Mursi, and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government.

Military officials declined to comment on the video which was posted in the name of the Ansar Jerusalem militant group, The group has carried out other attacks in the Sinai. But the video comes as security officials have dismissed one police officer over alleged ties with Islamists.

The video posted on militant websites shows a man identified as Waleed Badr, who wears a uniform with a rank of a major. He says that the Egyptian army is "bent on fighting religion" and "loves America" more than Egyptians.