Egypt’s media watchdog to investigate TV host for ‘eyesore’ comments about overweight people

Zeinab El-Gundy , Friday 23 Aug 2019

Reham Saeed
Snapshot from Al-Nahar TV Channel shows anchor Reham Saeed (Photo: Al-Nahar TV Channel)

Egypt’s Supreme Media Council will investigate complaints against TV presenter Reham Said after she described overweight people as “a burden” and “an eyesore” during her show this week.

The council, which oversees media in Egypt, will hold a meeting on Saturday and summon the controversial host for questioning on Sunday, according to statements from council officials.

"Fat people are dead; they’re a burden on their families and the state, they’re an eyesore," Said said during this week’s episode of her social affairs show Sabaya on Al-Hayat TV network, which discussed weight-loss surgery.

“You lose part of your femininity because you are fat,” she added, speaking about overweight women.

The remarks caused an uproar on Egyptian and Arabic social media, with several prominent figures weighing in.

Popular Egyptian actress Engy Wegdan, who is known for her support for body positivity, slammed Said in a video on her official YouTube channel on Thursday.

“I am fat now and I was fatter in the past, but I did not have problems. I enjoy my life fully -- it is not about your shape or weight," Wegdan said.

"Thank God I am alive and I act; I give people hope because this is our role in life, to encourage people to have hope. If you say to a fat person that he is dead, where is the support and encouragement?" she said.

Her video had around 250,000 views as of Friday.

Prominent Lebanese TV host Rabia Zayyat also criticised Said.

"The words of this woman are full of bigotry, ignorance and untreatable disease. This is a dangerous example in the media," Zayyat said on her official Twitter account on Thursday, sharing the clip.

The National Council for Women said in an official statement on Friday that it had submitted an official complaint to the Supreme Media Council about Said's remarks.

"The TV host spoke in that episode in way that caused dismay among Egyptian women, and the episode itself contained inappropriate sentences and descriptions," read the statement.

On Friday Said uploaded a video to her official Instagram account in which she said that she was happy that she and her show "are teasing a lot of people," adding that she did not hurt or speak ill about anybody.

"We spoke only about those people who are over 200kg who are truly a burden on the state because they do not work, and if you do not have genetic problems then you brought it on yourself, and it can be changed," she said in the video.

This is not the first time Said has caused controversy; in October 2015, a public campaign was launched to boycott her show after she accused a woman slapped by a harasser in a mall of dressing “indecently” and aired stolen photos of the victim in a swimsuit.

She was prosecuted for defaming the victim and issued two prison sentences totalling one year and six months, but successfully appealed both sentences.

Her show was also temporarily suspended in August 2017 by the Supreme Media Council for "violating media norms" after it featured a discussion between a married woman and her lover.

According to a New England Journal of Medicine study from July 2017, 35 percent of Egyptian adults suffer from obesity.    

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