Egyptian actor Maged El-Masry on left and TV host Basma Wahba on right (Photo: Ahram Online)
Egypt's Supreme Council for Media Regulation announced on Saturday that it is launching an investigation after complaints were made against the TV talk show Sheikh El-Hara, which has drawn heavy criticism after celebrity guest Maged El-Masry made disparaging comments about sub-Saharan African women.
During the episode, which aired on 19 May, El-Masry, a well-known actor, recounted a story where he was “pranked” by a friend. The friend had arranged a rendezvous for El-Masry with three women, who the actor was shocked to discover were “Africans.”
El-Masry – to laughter from the show’s host Basma Wahba – said that he kicked the women out of his car and chased after the friend who had set up the meeting.
The episode drew widespread criticism on social media, with many accusing El-Masry and Wahba of racism.
Following the backlash, El-Masry told Youm 7 news website that he was only “joking” and did not intend to cause offense. "I am African too," the actor said.
"I misspoke. I apologise to anyone who was offended," he said.
On Saturday evening, the Media Syndicate released a statement saying that the show’s host, Wahba, is not a union member and therefore does not have the right to appear on the airwaves as a host.
Also on Saturday, Wahba announced that she was resigning from the show in protest over a decision by Al-Kahera wal Nas – the channel which airs the show – not to broadcast reruns of an earlier episode that had also generated controversy.
Sheikh El-Hara, which is in its third season, has attracted millions of viewers both on television and online.
As of the time this article is being published, the controversial episode featuring El-Masry is still available on the Al-Kahera wal Nas YouTube channel.
Second allegation of racism on Egyptian TV
This is not the first time the 2019 season of Ramadan TV has stirred up accusation of racism.
During the first week of Ramadan, TV actor and comedienne Shaimaa Seif appeared on two episodes of a prank show on MBC-Misr 2 TV where she had her face painted black and posed as a Sudanese woman.
The episodes drew criticism from many in Egypt and Sudan, with thousands of Sudanese social media users voicing their anger on Shaimaa Seif's social media accounts.
Seif, a popular comedienne, has issued a short statement saying she is sorry and that she did not intend to "upset" her Sudanese brothers and sisters.
"I am a comedienne doing comedy. I wished that you would view the matter in the comedic context that was intended. Of course I did not mean to upset you,” said Seif, who has since suspended her social media accounts.