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Egypt prosecutors investigate popular TV comedian

Egyptian prosecutors launched an investigation on Tuesday against a popular television satirist for allegedly insulting the president in the latest case raised by Islamist lawyers against outspoken media personalities.

Lawyer Ramadan Abdel-Hamid al-Oqsori charged that TV host Bassem Youssef insulted President Mohammed Morsi by putting the Islamist leader's image on a pillow and parodying his speeches.

The case against Youssef comes as opposition media and independent journalists are growing increasingly worried about press freedoms under a new constitution widely supported by Morsi and his Islamist allies.

Other cases have been brought against media personalities who have criticized the president. Some of the cases have ended with charges being dropped. Morsi's office maintains that the president has nothing to do with legal procedures against media critics.

On Tuesday, the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, one of Egypt's most widely circulated newspapers, said Morsi's office filed a complaint accusing it of ``circulating false news likely to disturb public peace and public security and affect the administration.'' 

The paper had published a report earlier this week attributed to sources saying that Morsi was due to visit the hospital where ousted President Hosni Mubarak is receiving treatment after being injured in his prison cell. Mubarak is serving a life sentence for failing to stop the killing of nearly 900 protesters during the uprising against him.

A visit by Morsi would have enflamed public anger. The paper later updated the story to say that Morsi's wife had only visited a relative in that hospital.

The paper said a reporter and an editor were summoned for interrogation.

A local committee of journalists and editors has called for stronger guarantees of press freedoms and a rejection of the current constitution, fearing it allows for jailing journalists under broadly-worded articles regarding media offenses.

Authorities ordered the closure of TV station ``Al-Fareen'' last summer after bringing its owner, Tawfiq Okasha, to trial for scathing attacks against Morsi and his Brotherhood group.  Okasha had emerged as one of the most popular TV personalities of post-Mubarak Egypt by railing against the uprising that toppled Mubarak's 29-year rule in February 2011.

Another prominent case was directed at the editor of a prominent opposition newspaper, al-Dustour, who has since stepped down. He went on trial briefly for ``spreading lies'' and fabricating news.

Youssef, a doctor, catapulted to fame when his video blogs mocking politics received hundreds of thousands of hits shortly after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime leader Mubarak.

Youssef's program is modeled after Jon Stewart's ``The Daily Show,'' where he has appeared as a guest.

Unlike other local TV presenters, Youssef uses satire to mock fiery comments made by ultraconservative clerics and politicians, garnering him a legion of fans among the country's revolutionaries and liberals.

Among his most popular clips are the ones where he pokes fun at the president's speeches and decisions.

While holding a red, furry pillow with Morsi's picture on it, Youssef satirizes Morsi's style of speech.

``He tells us things we never knew,'' he says, before wordy clips of Morsi going into detail about the day of the week and other basic facts.

``It's October 6! Tell us when it's Christmas!'' Youssef shouts to the camera as the audience erupts in laughter and applause.

Youssef, 38, is one of Egypt's most popular TV presenters with 1.4 million fans on Facebook and nearly 850,000 followers on Twitter, just shy of the president's number of followers.

Also Tuesday, police said they arrested a suspect in a shooting that seriously wounded a protester in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, where an open-ended sit-in protesting the Morsi regime is taking place.

According to witnesses, before dawn on Monday, gunmen shot and wounded 19-year-old Muhanad Samir, who has said he was jailed and tortured under Egypt's former ruling military council after he witnessed the killing of another activist. Lawyers say the attacked appeared to target Samir, who is battling for his life with pellets embedded in his head.

Security officials dismiss allegations Samir was the victim of a political assassination. On Tuesday, they said they arrested the owner of a cafe in downtown Cairo who told police that he fired on the square after people manning makeshift checkpoints there searched his car and shot at him. The officials spoke anonymously in line with regulations.

<한글 기사>

검찰, 대통령 풍자 TV진행자 조사착수

이슬람정권 치하서 언론자유 다시 '한겨울'

2011년 독재자 호스니 무바라크가 쫓겨난 뒤 이슬람 주의자 무함마드 무르시 대통령이 집권한 이집트에서 비판 언론인들에 대한 탄압이 잇따르고 있다.

이집트 검찰은 1일(현지시간) 자신이 진행하는 TV프로그램에서 무르시 대통령을 조롱하고, 명예를 훼손한 혐의로 고발된 인기 방송인 바셈 유세프(38)에 대해  조사 에 착수했다.

유세프는 재작년 초 '아랍의 봄'으로 불리는 시민 봉기로 무바라크 전 대통령이 축출된 이후 미국 코믹 토크쇼 존 스튜어트의 '데일리쇼'와 유사한 프로그램을 진행 하며 큰 인기를 끌었다. 권력자, 정치인 등에 대한 성역없는 풍자를 해온 그의 트위 터, 페이스북 계정에는 팔로워가 수백만명에 이른다.

유세프의 풍자는 무르시 등 집권세력만 겨냥한 것은 아니었다. 무르시 정권이 들어서기 전에는 과도권력을 행사한 군부를 조롱했고, 대통령 선거 국면에서는 각 후보들을 돌아가며 풍자의 대상으로 삼았다.

유세프에 대한 당국의 조사는 이슬람 율법 '샤리아'가 명시된 새 헌법 초안이 지난달 이슬람주의자들의 지지 속에 국민투표 등 절차를 마친 뒤 불거졌다는 점에서 본격적인 '이슬람 공안정국'의 신호탄 아니냐는 분석이 나오고 있다.

또 독립언론을 지향하며 상당한 발행부수를 올리고 있는 '알 마스리 알윰' 신문은 공공안전을 해칠 수 있는 잘못된 뉴스를 유표한 혐의로 1일 이집트 대통령실에 의해 고발당했다. 이 신문이 최근 무르시 대통령이 무바라크 전 대통령이 치료받고 있는 병원을 방문할 것이라고 보도한 것이 문제가 됐다. 신문은 추후 정정보도를 냈지만 해당 기사를 쓴 기자와 편집자는 수사 당국의 소환을 피할 수 없었다.

지난해 여름에는 무르시 대통령과 그의 정치적 고향인 보수 이슬람정파 '무슬림 형제단'에 대해 가차없는 비판을 가해온 방송사 '알-파린'이 폐쇄 명령을 받기도 했 다. 더불어 유명한 야권 성향 신문 '알 두스투르'의 편집인은 허위사실 유포 등 혐의로 기소됐다.

최근 이집트 언론인에 대한 당국의 조사 사례 가운데 상당수는 당국이 아닌 제3 자가 대통령의 명예를 훼손했다거나, 공공질서를 해쳤다는 등 이유로 고발장을 내면 당국이 조사에 착수하는 패턴을 보이고 있다.

검찰의 조사를 받고 있는 TV쇼 진행자 유세프를 고발한 변호사를 포함, 고발인들은 대부분 현 집권세력과 이념적 지향이 유사한 이슬람주의자들이다.