The arrest of Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef's arrest has sparked outrage among the country’s press, who are accusing the Egyptian regime of trying to silence dissent.Youssef himself took to Twitter to joke "Off to make some prison food."
The news comes after the Egyptian Attorney-General, Judge Mohammed el-Sayed Khalifa, signed an arrest warrant on Sunday accusing Youssef offending Islam, insulting the president, and inciting treason.
In a statement, Khalifa said he had questioned 28 members of the public who had submitted four reports against the popular satirist and broadcaster before signing the arrest warrant. He also pointed controversial lawyer Mortada Mansour, known for his public feud with Youssef, was not responsible for any of the complaints.
The Attorney-General said the reports concerned episodes 6, 12, 14 and 15 of Youssef's popular show El-Bernameg (The Programme).
A recently elected Chairman of the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate (EJS) said the warrant was evidence that the regime is “seeking to impose control on media freedom”, while media expert Yasser Abdel Aziz told Arabstoday that the move is "a systematic persecution of freedom of conscience."
Aziz claims the state is "monitoring journalists in a bid to terrorise them and prevent them from criticising the regime."
"Every day, we hear of a journalist or a broadcaster being summoned under different pretexts, and most of them are ones who put forwards opinions which the regime and the [Muslim] Brotherhood see as criticising their policies and exposing the reality of their diminishing popularity," added Azziz.
Meanwhile, Egyptian novelist Alaa el-Aswany has pledged his support for Youssef, urging the TV host not to pander to “the Brotherhood's Inquisition."
In recent years, Youssef's satirical show has become one of the most popular shows in Egypt and the Arab world, with persistently high ratings. El-Bernameg casts a humorous—and often scathing—look political and social affairs across the region.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist current are common targets of the show's barbed gags. In the past, the former cardiac surgeon has won several legal disputes accusing him of defamation.