April 8, 2013

Egyptian Comedian Controversy

Jon Stewart is involved in a Twitter spat over the arrest of an Egyptian comedian.

John Stewart: Silencing a comedian doesn’t qualify you to be president of Egypt, just president of NBC.

Scott: Jon Stewart’s defense of a fellow comedian at the center of an international Twitter spat. It started with a tweet from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, linking to the ten- minute monologue where Stewart mocks President Mohamed Morsi over the arrest of Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef. Youssef is known as Egypt’s Jon Stewart.

Bassem Youssef: We’re not very much different.

Stewart: No, I think you look better in a suit, but other than that I think we’re the same.

Scott: Youssef is accused of belittling President Morsi after poking fun at the Islamist leader’s clothes and English skills, among other things.

Stewart: Making fun of the president’s hats and less-than-fluent English? That was my entire career for eight years!

Scott: But when the U.S. Embassy tweeted out the Daily Show segment, President Morsi’s office tweeted back, “It’s inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda.” That apparently led the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to shut down its Twitter account altogether before restoring it without the offending tweet.

The State Department faced some questions about that here at home.

Reporter: It’s up, it’s down, it’s back up again, it’s deleted the tweet. What’s the deal there?

Ms. Nuland: We’ve had some glitches with the way the Twitter feed has been managed. I can’t speak to the decision to re-tweet Jon Stewart to start with. But Jon Stewart is a comedy show in the U.S. As you know, it is publicly available content.

Scott: As for Youssef, he was arrested last week and brought in for questioning by Egypt’s high court. And over the weekend, the court decided to drop one of the lawsuits seeking to ban his show. He is now out on bail though still facing charges for insulting the president and insulting Islam.

President Morsi says he isn’t the one behind the charges against Youssef. Court records show Islamist lawyers filed the paperwork. Morsi is the leader of the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt.

The State Department has said Youssef’s arrest is evidence of a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on the freedom of expression. But Youssef says despite the crackdown, there is still hope for free speech in Egypt.

Youssef: This has kind of become a national gathering. So, I think I still have hope that even if it stops it will come back again.

Scott: Scott Evans, Channel One News.


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