An Egyptian television show has been temporarily suspended after its controversial presenter, Reham Said, sparked an outcry on social media by describing overweight people as “a burden” and “an eyesore.”
Al-Hayat network, which includes the channel that broadcasts Sabaya, a social affairs discussion show, said it had decided to suspend the program and the host "after the backlash over a recent episode."
The move followed a decision by Egypt's Supreme Council for Media Regulation to investigate the presenter over comments in which she said overweight people are “dead," “a burden on their families and the state” and “an eyesore” during an episode of her show last week. The probe decision came after the National Council for Women submitted an official complaint to the media council.
The suspension will continue until the media council completes investigations into Said, after which the future of the program will be announced, the network added in a statement on Friday.
In response to the uproar, Said said the criticism against her was "orchestrated" and announced she would quit her work in the media.
"I apologise to those who got upset, unjustly…I will never work in media or acting again; I will never return to this job again," Said, who is also an actress, said in a video she posted on her Instagram account in the early hours of Saturday.
She earlier said the comments were referring to obese people weighting over 200kg and intended to be a "wake-up call" to encourage them to lose weight. She added that the remarks were taken out of context from the episode, which discussed weight-loss surgery.
Said said her move to help obese people is in line with efforts by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to encourage people to lose weight.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 63 percent of Egypt's population, now over 99 million, are overweight, including around 36 percent who are obese.
The WHO notes that obesity is on the rise in low- and middle-income countries.
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 private photos of the victim.
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 media syndicate for "violating media norms" after it hosted a discussion with a married woman and her lover.