Egypt's administrative court has rejected a lawsuit demanding the suspension of a TV prank show hosted by Egyptian actor Ramez Galal on the Saudi-owned MBC Group.
The show, ‘Ramez Magnoon Rasmy’ or ‘Ramez Is Officially Crazy’, tricks Egyptian and Arab celebrities into attending what they think is a talk show in Dubai, only to find themselves on a prank show hosted by Galal.
The guests find themselves buckled into a mechanical chair and ordered by Galal to answer questions glorifying him or they are threatened with crabs, a snake, or scary moves by the roller coaster-style chair.
The show caused controversy as soon as it started airing with the start of the Islamic month of Ramadan last week.
The lawsuit was filed by Egyptian lawyer Fahmy Bahgat calling on the information ministry and Supreme Council for Media Regulation to withdraw the show because it “incites violence.”
It cited a report issued by Cairo’s main mental health hospital, Abbasiya, on the negative impact of the show on families and children.
The court reasoned that the acts implying torture in the show "should be considered within the context of art", and that the presenter was only "playing jokes on his guests," who gave their approval to air the episodes.
It said the program gives no cause to warrant restricting freedom of expression, and stressed that the media council does not have the authority to penalise a foreign network, even if a violation had been committed.
The episodes reviewed by the court as of the day of the decision do not incite discrimination or violence, it added.
Tuesday’s court decision will automatically apply to other lawsuits brought before the court calling for the suspension of the show, the source said.
Prank television shows have been a staple during Ramadan for decades.
Galal has hosted a prank show in Ramadan for almost a decade, tapping into the soaring TV viewership in the Islamic month. His shows, which present a different theme every year, have triggered criticism in the past years.
Two parliamentarians have filed complaints with the prime minister and the country’s public prosecutor calling for the show to be taken off air for containing violence and insulting women.
The National Council for Women also filed a complaint to the country’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation, saying the show’s presenter is bullying guests and demeaning women.
In the show, Galal mocked the appearance of some of the actresses and made fun of one for being divorced.
A spokesman of MBC Group, Mazen Hayek, said last week the network was not suspending the show despite the controversy, stressing that it had drawn the highest viewership on the network in its first two days.
“If you don’t like it, we respect your opinion; don’t watch, but you can’t deprive millions of people from watching it… because others like it.”
He said all guests had approved the episodes to be broadcast.