Gamal Eid, Attorney and human rights activist (Photo: Reuters)
There were four times as many 'insulting the president' lawsuits during President Mohamed Morsi's first 200 days in office than during the entire 30-year reign of former president Hosni Mubarak.
This is the claim made by Gamal Eid, human rights lawyer and executive director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
Moreover, the number of such lawsuits during the Morsi era is more than during the entire period dating back to 1909 when the law was introduced (originally for 'insulting the king'), Eid said via Twitter.
Members and sympathisers of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which President Morsi hails, have allegedly used the accusation to intimidate opposition figures in the media.
In early January 2013, Islamist lawyers filed a lawsuit against political satirist Bassem Youssef for 'undermining the standing of the president' after he poked fun at President Morsi's speeches and put his image on a pillow. The charges were dropped before the case reached court.
In December 2012, the president's office accused psychiatrist Manal Omar and TV host Mahmoud Saad of insulting the president on the latter's programme Akhir Al-Nahar. They discussed the psychological effects of suppression and jail on those in power, with reference to President Morsi who spent seven months in jail during the Mubarak era and was detained for three days during revolution.
On Monday, ANHRI will issue an in-depth report on the issue called 'Insulting the President…A crime of an Autocratic Regime'.
The report will trace such lawsuits filed during the tenure of Egypt's five presidents, and will include the names of those put on trial, including journalists and grassroots activists.
The first person to be charged with 'insulting the king' was the journalist Ahmed Helmy, grandfather of Egyptian artist, poet and cartoonist Salah Jahin, in 1909. The most recent was Gamal Fahmy of the independent Tahrir newspaper in January 2013.