Egyptian TV show suspended after anchor's sexual harassment comments, advertisers' boycott

Ayat Al Tawy , Friday 30 Oct 2015

Reham Saeed
A snapshot of Reham Saeed's controversial show Sabaya Al-Kheir (Photo: the show's official Facebook page)

Egyptian television programme Sabaya Al-Kheir was suspended on Friday after advertisers began to pull their adverts in response to the presenter's criticisms of a woman who was sexually harassed.

At least 15 well-known brands and major trade names had pulled their adverts from the social affairs discussion show, presented by Egyptian anchor Reham Saeed, before Al-Nahar channel announced the show would be suspended.

Saeed came under fire from Egyptian social media users this week after an interview with an Egyptian woman who was the victim of an assault in a Cairo mall.

Saeed's broadcasting of private photos of the victim, and her conclusion that women should dress more appropriately to avoid sexual assault, provoked an outcry on social media.

In response to the flurry of condemnation, many brands sponsoring Sabaya Al-Kheir (which roughly translates to “Messengers of Goodwill") announced they would drop out.

The move appeared to have been spearheaded by Eva Cosmetics, which first announced late on Thursday it would no longer sponsor the programme.

"Alo Eva announces it bears no responsibility for the content of programmes on which it airs its ads," the company said on its Facebook page.

"In regard to Sabaya Al-Kheir and the controversy it has raised, the company has stopped its sponsorship of the programme."

Several top brands followed suit shortly after, including Henkel's Persil, Chipsy crisps, Pampers and Almarai Egypt, a maker of dairy products.

Adding to the fervour was well-known satirist Bassem Youssef's take on the matter; Youssef tweeted about Eva, vowing to write a post about every firm that "does the right" thing.

"Why would you spend millions on ads in a show while you can be viewed by five million here if you boycott?...Your ad is on us," Youssef jokingly said on his Twitter account, in reference to his five-million-plus followers.

In a series of tweets that followed, the comedian went on to mention each brand that had pulled its ads from Sabaya Al-Kheir.

The controversy began after Saeed, who interviewed the alleged assault victim, accused the latter of wearing "revealing clothes" that had prompted the harasser to assault her.

The incident was caught on closed-circuit television, and the widely circulated video showed a verbal encounter between the woman, wearing jeans and a sleeveless top, and a lone man, who then steps forward and hits her in the face, before security guards rush in to hold him back.

Saeed criticised the woman's clothing, and showed viewers pictures of the woman wearing a swimsuit at the beach and being held by a man. The woman alleged that Saeed and her show's crew had stolen the private pictures from her phone while she was at the studio for the interview.

By Friday morning, the number of brands who had withdrawn had reached 15.

"Al-Nahar TV apologises to all those who have been dismayed by the episode in question and confirms its respect to each [Egyptian] woman and girl," announced the channel on Friday afternoon. 

Many Twitter users had shared photos of themselves holding signs thanking companies that had decided to drop the show.

Saeed is not new to controversy; she was recently criticised for comments on Syrian refugees in Lebanon which many deemed insulting. Other episodes, including one on atheists, have also drawn public outrage.

Short link: