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TV show issues statement after backlash over 'homosexual den' episode

TV show set to air expose on alleged gay Cairo bathhouse says it showed 'professionalism' in its coverage, despite backlash over sensationalism

Osman El Sharnoubi , Monday 8 Dec 2014
Egypt
Logo of Al-Qahera Wal Nas channel's show El-Mestakhabi (Photo: Courtesy of El-Mestakhabi's official Facebook page)
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The cast of El-Mestakhabi, a TV show on private satellite station Al-Qahera Wal Nas, issued a statement stressing its "professionalism" in its investigative coverage of a Cairo bathhouse where men allegedly pay for private gay sex parties.

The statement came after an announcement on Sunday on the public Facebook page of the show's presenter Mona Iraqi that an episode "exposing the largest den of group homosexuality in the heart of Cairo" will be aired in El-Mestakhabi's coming episodes.

The page showed photos watermarked by the show showing semi-naked men hiding their faces from cameras being hauled out of the bathhouse in Cairo's Ramses district.

In response, a backlash of comments on Iraqi's page accused her of violating professional and ethical codes of media coverage, referring to the manner in which she portrayed the detained men and a photo showing filming with her iPhone as the stream of men file past.

"During the production of this investigative series ... we assure we have worked towards achieving the highest degree of accuracy and professionalism in observing international professional, humane and scientific rules," the cast's statement said.

The statement seemed to distance itself from Iraqi's Sunday announcement, which said that "the cast represents only its professional coverage that will be aired as part of the episodes of the series. In this respect, we ask viewers not to form positive or negative views on the content of the episode prematurely."

In Monday's statement, the show referred to the subject of the episode as "the selling of group sex for males" instead of Iraqi's sensational reference to "sessions of group sex in front of the eyes and ears of those present."

Outrage

Tens of angry comments flooded Iraqi's public Facebook page as well as her private one, on which she has allowed comments.

"So now the name of the episode is 'the selling of group sex for males?' Wasn't the 'journalist' referring to it as the homosexual group sex den?" prominent Egyptian lawyer and human rights defender Hossam Bahgat wrote.

Many accused Iraqi of seeking fame by invading people's privacy and "destroying the lives of others."

A conservative society, most Egyptians don't accept open homosexuality.

"This photo [of Iraqi filming the men entering the police van] will haunt you your entire life. May you be happy and proud as you photograph inside a men's bathhouse and ruin men's reputations for a scoop," Facebook user Peter Rullez wrote.

Speaking to Ahram Online, human rights lawyer Mohamed Bakir said the frequency of such crackdowns against gay Egyptians has increased.

Bakir, who follows such cases closely, said a trend started in 2012 under Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, but is continuing under current President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

"I don't have an explanation for it, but there are close to 20 similar cases this year alone," Bakir said. He suspects the particular motive for the bathhouse raid was to crack down on homosexuals and not just a possible place where men pay for sex.

The most recent case was in November, when eight men were sentenced to three years in prison after they were shown appearing to take part in a wedding celebration featuring two men as the celebrants. The video went viral on social media sites and their sentence is being appealed.

The men – as in all such cases, according to Bakir – were charged with "debauchery." There is no law criminalising homosexuality in Egypt.

Egyptian police on Monday announced the arrest of a "network of homosexuality" in the Ramsis bathhouse.

A security official told news website Aswat Masriya that the bathhouse owner charged money from customers to join "group sex parties" held every Sunday.

The episode will be aired Monday night.

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