Egypt's Mursi withdraws complaints against journalists

CAIRO (AFP) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has ordered the withdrawal of complaints filed against journalists for publishing rumours about him, said a statement posted on Wednesday on the presidency's Twitter account.

"The president has ordered the withdrawal of all legal complaints filed against journalists for publishing rumours on him," the statement said.

The president's order to withdraw legal complaints against journalists pertains to those complaints filed by his legal staff. No details were given on specific cases.

State news agency MENA said the decision had been taken "out of respect for freedom of speech".

One case in which the presidency took legal action was against television presenter Mahmoud Saad.

He interviewed psychologist Manal Omar, who claimed Mr Mursi suffered psychological problems as a result of having been jailed under the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

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

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

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

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

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