Egypt’s public prosecutor on Saturday ordered the arrest of a popular television satirist on charges that included insulting President Mohamed Morsi and denigrating Islam, the state news agency reported, a move that amplified criticisms that the Islamist government is moving aggressively to stifle freedom of expression.
The satirist, Bassem Youssef, who hosts a widely watched show modeled on “The Daily Show,” has been the subject of numerous legal complaints filed by Islamist lawyers and citizens who took umbrage at Mr. Youssef’s skewering of Egypt’s political class, including Mr. Morsi, his loyalists and the opposition.
But the arrest warrant seemed to represent a sharp escalation of the campaign against Mr. Youssef, with the public prosecutor appointed by Mr. Morsi lending official credence to the complaints. In the nine months since Mr. Morsi took office, his government and the Muslim Brotherhood have endured withering and frequently strident criticism from Egypt’s private news media outlets. Mr. Morsi has been accused of responding with measures that recall the previous authoritarian leaders, including prosecuting critics, confiscating newspapers and placing sympathetic journalists in state news media organs.