U.S. Embassy's Tweet Fuels Furor Around

Tensions escalate after Cairo embassy tweets link to Jon Stewart comments supporting Egyptian comic Bassem Youssef

Twitter and “The Daily Show” entered the world of international tensions this week in the ongoing brouhaha between Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and Egyptian TV comic Bassem Youssef.

On April 1, State Dept. spokesman Victoria Nuland said the March 31 arrest of Youssef was part of “a disturbing trend of growing restrictions on the freedom of expression” in Egypt. That same day, Jon Stewart devoted the first 11 minutes of “The Daily Show” to censorship of Youssef’s jokes. “If insulting the President and Islam were a jail-able offense here, Fox News would go bye-bye,” he quipped.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo tweeted a link to the segment, which prompted an angry response from the office of Morsi, the official English-lingo Twitter feed of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist Freedom & Justice Party. Those two said Youssef was not in trouble for insulting the president but for insulting religion.

Youssef was briefly arrested March 31 on charges of insulting President Morsi, before being released on $2,200 bail. The political satirist’s show “El Bernameg” (“The Program”), inspired by the U.S. “Daily Show,” has an audience estimated at 30 million and is aired by Capital Broadcast Centre.

Egyptian media authorities have reportedly threatened CBC with closure if Youssef does not tone down the snark. But Youssef has instead vowed to take his skewering of Morsi and hardline clerics “to higher levels.”

Expect ratings for El Bernameg to soar, as long as Youssef manages to stay on the air.

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