FILE - In this Sunday, March 31, 2013 file photo, a bodyguard secures popular Egyptian television satirist Bassem Youssef, who has come to be known as Egypt's Jon Stewart, as he enters Egypt's state prosecutors office to face accusations of insulting Islam and the country's Islamist leader in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's state Investment Authority said Tuesday, April 2, 2013 it will revoke the license of a private TV station that airs a popular satirist if he does not stop the use of "unacceptable and offensive" language. The warning comes two days after the satirist, Youssef, was questioned by prosecutors over accusations that he insulted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and Islam, and a day after the U.S. criticized the Egyptian government for a "disturbing trend" of growing restrictions on freedom of expression. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File) (The Associated Press)
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CAIRO – The Egyptian president's office is distancing itself from legal proceedings against a popular comedian questioned over accusations he insulted the president and Islam in his weekly TV show.
A late Tuesday statement said President Mohammed Morsi's administration recognizes the "importance of freedom of expression and fully respects press freedom."
The complaints against satirist Bassem Youssef, the statement pointed out, were filed by "citizens."
Youssef's questioning, as well as arrest warrants against five anti-government activists on charges of inciting unrest, have prompted Morsi's opponents to warn of a campaign to intimidate his critics.
The Obama administration has warned that Egypt may be backsliding in its transition to democracy, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying Tuesday that Washington has "real concerns about the direction Egypt appears to be moving in."