President’s office says complaint against satirist Bassem Youssef initiated by independent lawyers and not government.
The office of the Egyptian president has issued a statement denying reports that Mohamed Morsi’s government is cracking down on satirists and the freedom of the press.
The denial came amid reports that Bassem Youssef, a popular satirist who hosts a television programme often likened to the Jon Stewart’s Daily Show in the US, will be investigated by prosecutors for «undermining» President Morsi.
In a statement sent to Al Jazeeera on Sunday, Morsi’s foreign-affairs office stated that neither the Egyptian government nor the presidency had pursued any legal action against Youssef, and that the complaints against Youssef were «mainly individual initiatives by independent lawyers».
The statement further added that Egypt’s new constitution does not include any articles that single out the president as immune from criticism or even defamation.
“The Egyptian constitution, approved by a majority of Egyptians in a democratic vote, safeguards civil liberties and human rights including freedom of speech and press,” the statement said.
It was earlier reported that the prosecutor general had ordered an investigation into a formal complaint against Youssef by a lawyer. The complaint reportedly accused the satirist of «insulting» Morsi, and «undermining his standing».
But the statement from Morsi’s office said that no violations of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the new constitution would be tolerated.
“A violation of these articles is not only unconstitutional; it also amounts to a violation of one of the fundamental demands of the January 25th revolution.”