Khadija Khatab, one of the women taken off air, said the decision was “humiliating and even scandalous”. Photo / Twitter
’s state-run television has suspended eight of its female presenters for being overweight – telling them they can return to the air only after they go a diet.
The move sparked outrage among women’s groups and members of Parliament but state television authorities show no sign of backing down.
The presenters were given a month to lose weight and told they will not be allowed back on screen until they have an “appropriate appearance”, according to the Youm7 newspaper.
The decision was made by Safaa Hegazi, the female chief of Egypt’s ERTU public broadcaster.
She took over the position in April on a promise to modernise Egyptian state and make it once again competitive with other major broadcasters in the Arab world.
Khadija Khatab, one of the women taken off air, said the decision was “humiliating and even scandalous”.Hegazi’s order to suspend the eight women seems to have been part of this drive to overhaul her organisation’s look.
She told the al-Watannewspaper: “It is just an attempt to get rid of the successful [presenters] and retain others who present programmes that have no strong content”.
But Majdi Lasheen, a state television official, defended the move and said it should sound “the alarm for all TV presenters that they have to pay attention to their appearances, including body weight”.
He said: “This is the beginning of a plan to apply discipline and regulations designed to restore the beautiful image of all official TV stations. The decision to suspend the eight presenters is aimed at giving them a chance to change their looks in order to fit appearance on television.”
State television officials did not say how much weight the presenters were expected to lose or who would judge when their appearance was “appropriate”.
Eman Beibers, chairman of the Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women, said the decision was wrong and pointed to Oprah Winfrey as proof that weight should not matter for television presenters.
“Our problem is that we judge people by appearance rather than performance and content,” she said.