You’re not a real Internet presence until you’ve engaged in your first Twitter fight, or so says the conventional wisdom (that we just made up). As such. we can count @EgyptianPresidency and @USEmbassyCairo as new Internet stars.
Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, often called the Jon Stewart of Egypt, was arrested on Saturday for “insulting Islam” and President Mohammed Morsi and “disturbing the peace.”
A new investigation against me is to be started because of last episode. Accusations include spreading rumors and disturbing the "Peace"
â€” Dr Bassem Youssef (@DrBassemYoussef) April 1, 2013
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Youssef’s arrest was widely seen as attempt to silence critics of Morsi’s government. Stewart himself jabbed at Morsi, accusing him of hypocrisy in the most "Daily Show" way possible: playing back clips of Morsi talking about the importance of freedom of the press and spewing hateful slogans about Judaism.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo, known to be anything but a shrinking Twitter violet, took to the Internet airwaves and tweeted out Stewart’s video. Morsi's official Twitter feed, @EgyptianPresidency, responded, condemning the video and the American embassy for tweeting it out.
Both the U.S. Embassy’s Twitter feed and that of the Egyptian President were subsequently deactivated, and then restored, with the inflammatory tweets mysteriously missing.
Youssef subsequently appeared on Christiane Amanpour’s CNN program to talk about his arrest in person.
On Wednesday, the Egyptian president’s official Facebook page put out the following statement about the controversy:
“Press Release on the Questioning of the Comedian"
"The presidency reaffirms that Egypt after the revolution has become a state of law with independent judiciary. Hence, the prosecution's summoning of any Egyptian citizen regardless of his title or fame is the decision of the prosecutor general, who operates independently from the presidency.
"The current legal system allows for individual complaints to be brought to the prosecutor general. All the current well-publicized claims were initiated by citizens rather than the presidency. The presidency has not filed any complaint against stand-up comedian Basem Yousef.
"The presidency reiterates the importance of freedom of expression and fully respects press freedom. All citizens are free to express themselves without the restrictions that prevailed in the era of the previous regime.
"The first legislation passed under President Mohamed Morsi was concerned with the prevention of pretrial detention of journalists. This demonstrates the determination of the president to encourage press and media to operate in a free environment.
"We urge citizens to exercise their legal right to freedom of speech while respecting the rule of law.”