US concerned by Egypt's civil rights record

WASHINGTON — The United States expressed concern Monday at the repression of civil rights in Egypt, particularly the free speech rights of political activists and journalists.

"We are deeply concerned by the growing trend of efforts to punish and deter political expression in Egypt," said Patrick Ventrell, a State Department spokesman, just ahead of the first anniversary of the election of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

"Numerous individuals, including journalists, bloggers and activists have been detained, and some are being charged and put on trial for allegedly defaming government figures," Ventrell said.

"Such charges do not conform to Egypt's international obligations, do not reflect international standards regarding freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, particularly in a democratic society, and represent a step backward for Egypt's democratic transition," he added.

The United States had voiced similar concerns in recent weeks.

During his campaign for the presidency last year, Morsi committed himself to guaranteeing media freedoms, promising not to "prevent anyone from writing."

But lawyer and human rights advocate Gamal Eid said there had been four times more complaints for "insults against the president" in the first 200 days of Morsi's administration than in all the 30 years of Hosni Mubarak's rule.

The most celebrated case is that of wildly popular Bassem Youssef -- whose weekly political satire program Al-Bernameg (The Show) has spared few public figures from merciless critique.

Youseff is currently on bail pending investigation into charges of insulting Morsi and Islam.

The president has said complaints against Youseff have come from "citizens" who find his humor objectionable, and not from his office

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