Egypt's Bassem Youssef given Press Freedom Award

Rebecca Hawkes | 29-11-2013

Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef has been honoured with a Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), as one of four highlighted media personalities who "face imprisonment and other threats for exposing realities".

Youssef received his award from Jon Stewart – a comedian he cites as an inspiration – for his political comedy, which, said CPJ "has maintained an independent, critical posture despite harsh criticism, legal action, and suspension".

Ecuadorean TV reporter Janet Hinostroza, Turkish investigative reporter Nedim Sener, and imprisoned Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai also received honorary awards.

"At a time when information has become a global resource, these four journalists have defied censorship and persecution to bring us the news," said Joel Simon, executive director, CPJ. "We recognise their bravery, their commitment, and their refusal to be silenced."

Youssef's show, El Barnameg (The Programme), launched on YouTube in 2011, before going viral and drawing the attention of Egyptian channel ONTV. Most recently shown on CBC, the broadcaster took it off air in November 2013. The show attracted over 40 million viewers, according to CPJ.

"Youssef has taken on political conservatives and liberals alike, in a quest to inform and shatter stereotypes," said CPJ. The former cardiac surgeon, it added, "uses sharp humour to report on and critique Government failures to improve the economy, public services, and safety, and its efforts to suppress opinion – whether in the name of religion under [former president] Morsi or in the name of security under the current military-backed Government."

In the past year, Youssef has been investigated, arrested, briefly detained, released on bail, and fined for "insulting the president", "insulting Islam" and "reporting false news".