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Jon Stewart defends satire on Egyptian TV

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

CAIRO — Amid growing tension at the approach of the June 30 anniversary of Mohamed Morsy's assumption of Egypt's presidency, Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's “The Daily Show,” appeared on Egyptian TV on Friday night, drawing laughs in a funny yet very serious tribute to the importance of satire in a free state.

Stewart was the guest of Bassem Youssef on “Al Barhnameg,” or “The Program,” one of Egypt's most popular shows. In March, Morsy's government charged Youssef with insulting the president and Islam. Youssef was released on $2,200 bond, and Stewart has stood by him.

On Friday, Youssef introduced Stewart by saying that he had brought in one of the many feared spies of the regime. Stewart, wearing a black mask and led by two men in suits, walked in. As he lifted the mask, the crowd cheered.

Stewart deployed some Arabic: “Ani regal basset. Membaasaa al riftya,” or “I am a simple man. I don't want to be carried.”

He also got serious.

“If your regime is not strong enough to handle jokes, then you have no regime. Yes, maybe (a joke) is an insult, but it is not an injury,” Stewart said.

Youssef, he said, “is showing satire can still be relevant. It is just the opportunity to be heard.”

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