* Move shows respect for freedom of expression -spokesman
* Does not affect arrest of satirist
CAIRO, April 10 (Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi
has ordered the withdrawal of legal complaints filed by the
presidency against journalists, in a move that appeared aimed at
fending off accusations of a crackdown on dissent by the
Mursi withdrew the complaints out of respect for freedom of
expression, presidential spokesman Ehab Fahmy said.
Mursi is under international pressure to work for consensus
and stability while Egypt seeks aid from the International
Monetary Fund to ease an economic crisis. On Monday his
government appeared to be heeding some of the concerns of the
liberal and leftist opposition by announcing moves to amend the
However, the latest legal move does not apply to complaints
filed independently by Mursi loyalists against journalists and
These include complaints that led to an arrest warrant being
issued against the popular satirist Bassem Youssef. He is
accused of insulting the president and Islam in a probe that has
added to concern inside and outside Egypt about freedom of
expression in the post-Hosni Mubarak era.
The United States, which supplies Egypt with some $1.5
billion a year in aid, most of it for the military, last week
accused Cairo of muzzling freedom.
The U.S. State Department also suggested the authorities
were selectively prosecuting those accused of insulting the
government while ignoring or playing down attacks on
"It is a half step. It remains for the members of the
president's party to stop trying to intimidate journalists,"
said Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer who has documented such
cases. He said the presidency had filed three of some two dozen
cases alleging insults against Mursi since he came to office
last June as Egypt's first freely elected president.
The presidency has also been heavily critical of what it
describes as false news published by independently-owned media
that are broadly critical of Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Earlier this year, Al-Masry Al-Youm, one of Egypt's most
widely read independent newspapers, said its editor had been
investigated by the prosecutor's office after a formal complaint
from the presidency about an inaccurate story on Mursi's
Mursi has said he respects freedom of expression. The
presidency has pointed to his banning of pre-trial detention of
journalists as proof of his commitment to a free press.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Kevin Liffey)