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Jon Stewart Stands Up for Egypt’s Satirist Bassem Youssef, Sparks Twitter Fight with Morsi [Videos]


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THE SEGMENT is scorching. Stewart came to the aid of his comedian friend Bassem Youseef in Egypt, which sparked a Twitter fight between the U.S. embassy and Pres. Morsi’s office.

The embassy’s official Twitter feed took a bit of a swipe at Egyptian President Mohamamed Morsi today, linking to a “Daily Show” segment in which Jon Stewart lambasted Morsi for his government’s arrest of Bassem Youssef, a hugely popular TV political satirist who is sometimes compared to Stewart himself. Youssef, now released on bail, was imprisoned briefly this weekend for “insulting Islam” and “belittling” Morsi. [Washington Post]

Earlier today when I clicked on what was supposed to be Morsi’s Twitter feed, there was a prompt saying there was no such page. Josh Rogin is reporting that the Cairo feed has been officially shut down.

The criticism of Morsi is well deserved.

The prosecutor, Talaat Ibrahim, whom Morsi appointed in December, is also reportedly investigating Youssef for “threatening public security.” In an interview with The Daily Beast earlier this year, as the possibility of legal action loomed, Youssef described the potential charges as “a way to pressure you and a way to exhaust you and a way to drain your energy”–adding that his best defense would be to keep up the satire. [Daily Beast]

Jon Stewart is about to take a three-month leave of absence from “The Daily Show,” which I wrote about when the news broke, to direct an adaptation of the 2011 book “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival,” by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy. Stewart has also written the screenplay.

A Canadian-Iranian journalist and documentarian, Mr. Bahari was jailed in Tehran in 2009 for four months, accused of plotting a revolution against the government. Shortly before his arrest, Mr. Bahari had participated in a “Daily Show” sketch, conducted by one of the show’s correspondents, Jason Jones, who was pretending to be a spy. Mr. Bahari’s captors used the footage against him. [New York Times]

Stewart’s involvement in covering the Arab spring has been important, not just because of the younger audience he reaches, but because the way he reports on it makes what he’s teaching his audience relatable and real. He’s covered foreign policy more seriously than most television, cable and news shows.

It’s natural for artists who are serious about their craft, whether comedian, writer or performer, to use their power to reach beyond home base and attempt to impact a larger audience, even stepping outside comfort zones, which is where the magic can happen. No one utilizes his power more effectively than Jon Stewart. Now that he’s older and well ensconced at the top of the heap of respected political commentators, his humor has aged further and his courage has been fortified.

Taking risks is what your best creative artists continue to do throughout their career. Getting comfortable and playing it safe is creative death.

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