Egypt's state prosecutor ordered an investigation Tuesday on a formal complaint brought against Bassem Youssef, accusing him of “undermining the standing” of the president on his television show, Al-Barnameg (The Program).
In a separate incident, a leading independent Egyptian newspaper is facing an investigation by the state prosecutor over a complaint from the government, which accused it of publishing false news.
Youssef, whose show is likened to Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, shot to fame with his amateur videos posted on the Internet following the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
On his satirical show broadcast three times a week, Youssef pokes fun at public personalities ranging from fellow television presenters to well-known Muslim scholars, according to a BBC report. He mocked Morsi’s repeated use of the word "love" in his speeches by starting one of his programs with a love song, holding a red pillow with the president's face printed on it.
Ramadan Abdel Hamid al-Aqsari, the lawyer who filed the complaint, had in the past sought to sue a range of media personalities and politicians, the AFP has reported.
The presidency accused independent daily al-Masry al-Youm of "spreading false news representing a danger to civil peace, public security and affecting the presidency," the paper said, according to a Reuters report.
The article under scrutiny was a report Saturday on the paper's website which cited "informed sources" as saying that Morsi was slated to visit a hospital, without giving a reason for the trip, the paper said. The presidency denied Morsi was due to visit the hospital. The paper said the story was subsequently updated to clarify that the president's visit had been cancelled and, instead, his wife had gone to the hospital to visit a family member.
Dozens of journalists from various independent newspapers held a silent protest last month over government attacks on freedom of press and expression.
Since taking charge in June, Morsi has been attacking media houses, accusing many of serving the ousted regime of Mubarak.
In August, Morsi issued a decree to prohibit the pre-trial detention of journalists accused of “publishing offenses,” hours after a Cairo criminal court jailed an editor pending trial on charges of insulting the president.
However, the president’s office has continued to file complaints against journalists and other public figures expressing critical views of Morsi and his parent party, the Muslim Brotherhood.