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Undercovered: Egyptian Activists Use Social Media to Demand Release of Imprisoned Satirists

Welcome to Undercovered: our new daily feature bringing attention to stories we feel deserve a larger audience.

Egyptian activists are turning to social media to protest the arrests and demand the release of five satirists, currently imprisoned and facing a host of charges including inciting terror attacks and attempting overthrow the government.

(Police arrested four on Monday, and the fifth a few days later.)

The five are members of the group Awlad el-Shawarea (Street Children), which is part of “a street-based art, music and graffiti movement born out of Egypt’s 2011 uprising and fuelled by liberal youths opposed to both the rule of Islamists and the military,” the AP in Cairo reports. “Authorities in recent months have sought to clamp down on the movement, closing a popular arts centre in downtown Cairo and cancelling some street art festivals.”

The five were arrested specifically for video clips that mocked the Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Protesters on social media have responded by posting photos of themselves holding cell phones with the caption: “Does a mobile phone camera rattle you?”

Their arrests have drawn the attention of a number of Egyptian artists, filmmakers, and actors, including Bassem Youssef, a satirist sometimes referred to as “Egypt’s Jon Stewart,” who has also faced censure and censorship for his comedy.

“If you truly are not scared of anyone, let them go free,” Youssef said in a video address, addressing Sisi.

The AP reports:

Sisi took office in June 2014, nearly a year after Morsi’s ouster. He has since overseen the arrest of thousands of Morsi’s supporters as well as scores of pro-democracy activists behind the 2011 uprising. The government has defended the crackdown and the erosion of freedoms since the 2011 uprising by saying it is trying to restore stability, revive the economy and defeat an increasingly powerful insurgency based in the Sinai Peninsula.

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