The Egyptian prosecution has ordered that complaints against three media figures for threatening national security and publishing false news be investigated by state security prosecutors.
Egyptian Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah referred a complaint against the head of privately-owned ONtv channel, Albert Shafiq, the presenter of ‘Manchette’ (Headlines) programme, Gaber El-Armouty, and a guest on Manchette, Shaimaa Abul-Kheir, for publishing false news, threatening security and disturbing peace, to the Upper State Security Prosecution on Tuesday to start investigations.
Shaimaa Abul-Kheir, a consultant for the International Committee to Protect Journalists’ Rights, spoke on the programme by telephone on Sunday.
The complaint was filed by nine Supreme Authority Union Lawyers.
"I said on the programme that the lawyers who filed a complaint against [popular satirist] Bassem Youssef are not competent, and they are the same lawyers who filed the complaint against me. Maybe that is why they are charging me with insulting lawyers for saying so," Abul-Kheir told Ahram Online.
"We did not receive yet any notification from the prosecution about the complaint. We learned about it from the media, which means that the issue is still in the early stages. What is bizarre is that the complaint was referred to a state security prosecution office and not a general prosecution one, which is a dangerous indicator for all journalists and media people," Abul-Kheir said.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights expressed its deep concern about the case, which is "a clear violation of freedom of expression," it said in a statement on Tuesday.
Manchette producer Mohamed El-Garhy said: "Such charges would have been understood under Hosni Mubarak's rule, but after the revolution, all the charges of threatening security should be pardoned."
"I would hope that the prosecutor-general look into the case of the Al-Azhar students who have food poisoning, which was presented over two days ago on the programme, and which now reached its peak with more than 500 patients lying in hospital since yesterday, rather than investigating these cases," he said.
Hundreds of angry Al-Azhar students gathered on Monday night to protest deteriorating conditions at the university's hostels and negligence by management after hundreds were taken ill.
On Sunday, television presenter and comedian Bassem Youssef was released on bail, facing accusations of insulting President Mohamed Morsi and denigrating Islam.
The prosecution is also investigating complaints that Youssef "threatened public security.”
Judicial sources said a lawyer had lodged a complaint against Youssef and the head of the CBC television channel which airs his weekly programme ‘Al-Bernameg’ (The Programme), which is modelled on Jon Stewart's satirical The Daily Show.
The complaint appears to accuse Youssef of stoking criticism of Islamists and obliquely calling for a "civil war."
Under the Egyptian legal system, legal complaints are filed with the prosecutor-general, who decides whether there is enough evidence to refer the case to trial. Suspects can be detained during this stage of investigation.