It has been two years since the revolutionary wave of the Arab Spring made its way to Egypt, allowing for the ousting of long-term Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Since then, Egypt has made small strides in the development of basic freedoms.
But Egypt made it clear that its progress was less of a leap and more of a mere hop when the Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah ordered the arrest of popular Egyptian political commentator and satirist Bassem Youssef for allegedly insulting current President Mohamed Morsi and Islam during his weekly TV show, “Al Bernameg.”
Youssef turned himself in for interrogation on March 31, and was released on bail the same day.
Al Bernameg, meaning “the program” in English, is a weekly political commentary show similar to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in the U.S. Youssef commonly pokes fun at Egyptian and other governmental authorities, including the U.S. But Youssef’s problem is that he has become wildly popular by making fun of a hierarchy of governmental and religious leaders who are not used to ridicule.
Youssef’s arrest was clearly a ploy by Morsi’s young government to quiet the voices of those who oppose him. It was an obvious attack on the rights Morsi made clear in early stages of his presidency he would not infringe on. But what Youssef’s arrest really shows is that the Middle East region is still a far way off from granting its people complete freedom from governmental persecution.
Some suspected the Middle East and North Africa were not going to become ideal facets of democracy overnight. They said the political, sociological, economical and religious environment of the region would not allow for such a drastic overturn without some opposition and problems.
Youssef personifies the sentiment that people should not be afraid of their government, but that the government should be afraid of its people. He should continue making his show without remorse. The Morsi government should remember that it is only in power because Egyptians came together and overthrew Mubarak’s oppressive regime. Youssef should be commended for standing up for human rights and fighting for Egyptians’ rights to free speech. He should also be commended for staying calm and collected in the midst of government prosecution.