Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1269, (5 - 11 November 2015)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1269, (5 - 11 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

‘Reham died’

In the wake of a huge online boycott campaign, Al-Nahar TV has suspended a controversial show

TV show “Sabaya Al-Kheir” was last week suspended by the Al-Nahar station following a boycott campaign that dominated social networks after the programme’s presenter broadcast personal photos of a woman who had been physically assaulted, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky.

In a press release, Al-Nahar said that the show, anchored by Reham Said, had been suspended pending an investigation over an episode in which Said showed the private photographs of a woman, Somaya Tarek, who had been physically assaulted and sexually harassed.

Before the suspension, “Sabaya Al-Kheir” was scheduled to be aired on Friday. The show will remain off the air until the investigation has been completed, Al-Nahar said.

The television network expressed its apologies to all those who were offended by Said’s episode, which critics say was intended to discredit Tarek. The network stressed its respect for all girls and women, saying they are “the crown on our heads.”  and added, “We will continue to respect and value them.”

“We apologise again to everyone. God bless you and God save Egypt,” said the statement by Al-Nahar, which also promised an “extensive investigation.”

On Thursday, 15 companies announced they would withdraw their sponsorship of the show following an online boycott campaign that called on all companies sponsoring the show to end their contracts.

The story began when a violent confrontation was captured on shopping mall cameras. A man and a woman walk into the frame and seem to be arguing in the middle of Horria Mall, in the suburb of Heliopolis, when suddenly the man slaps the woman and is then restrained by mall security. The woman in the footage told the police that the man had been sexually harassing her.

On the TV show, Said interviewed Tarek, who blamed mall security and police for failing to arrest her assailant. Said then started commenting on Tarek’s “revealing” dress, suggesting that her choice of clothing may have triggered the assault.

“Do you think you were dressed appropriately?” Said asked her guest.

On a later show, the presenter went further, showing old photos of Tarek, and accusing her of wearing “revealing clothes” like bikinis and of drinking alcohol.

Tarek accused Said’s production team of stealing the photos from her personal phone. Tarek said the phone was being charged during the interview.

Following the backlash and verbal exchanges between Said and Tarek, social media erupted with outrage over the presenter’s actions. Last week, the top trending hashtag on Twitter was #Die_Reham and several petitions began circulating on Facebook to take “Sabaya Al-Kheir” off the air and take Said to court. One such petition garnered 308,000 supporters and counting.

Al-Nahar did not comment at the beginning, saying Said would be hosted on its popular night-time talk show presented by Khaled Salah, “Al-Nahar Al-Youm.” But Al-Nahar decided to suspend Sabaya Al-Kheir after huge pressure from social media.

“I’m not appearing today with Reham,” Salah tweeted a few hours before the suspension of Said’s show. “Al-Nahar will take a strong position out of respect for the public,” Salah said.

“Our top priority is to serve the Egyptian public interest. We respect the people’s anger and we acted accordingly by suspending the show,” Amr Al-Kahki, the CEO of Al-Nahar TV told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“We will not challenge the public that we serve but withdrawing the commercials from the network will not solve anything,” Al-Kahki said.

He added that the controversial episode is currently the subject of an investigation in order to hold whoever is responsible accountable.

He pointed out that the sponsors who withdrew their commercials from “Sabaya Al-Kheir” directed them to other programmes on the same network, Al-Nahar.

“We did not suspend the programme because sponsors withdrew but because we respect the Egyptian people,” Al-Kahki said.

In the meantime, Said has been viciously targeted on social media. In addition to the Twitter hashtag #Die_Reham, she was trolled by other Arabic-language hashtags that trended in Egypt, including #Reham_Said and #Prosecute_Reham_Said.

Many called for a boycott of both her programme and the network that broadcasts it, the privately owned Al-Nahar TV channel. After the show was suspended came the hashtag #Reham_died.

Leading political satirist Bassem Youssef was among the first to announce his support for the boycott campaign.

“Why would you spend millions advertising on a programme when five million followers can see you here?” Youssef tweeted, addressing advertisers. Youssef’s Twitter account soon turned into an advertising hub for the products of the boycotting companies.

Said is no stranger to controversy. She was recently criticised for insulting Syrians living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. In a report that showed her delivering donated clothing to Syrians living in the camp, she made the comment, “Egyptians would have been like Syrians.”

The remark, “Egyptians would have been . . .” has become a commonplace way to express a person’s support for the presidency of Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, the inference being that if the Muslim Brotherhood had remained in power, Egyptians would have been in the same dire situation as the Syrians living in the refugee camp.

She also courted controversy when, in one of her episodes, she talked about “prostitution in Morocco”.

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