CAIRO: Privately-owned TV channel Al-Nahar suspended anchor Reham Saeed’s Sabaya el-Kheir show Friday and opened an investigation into a controversial episode in which Saeed aired private pictures of a victim of violence.
After a CCTV video of a Cairo shopping mall went viral on Facebook of a man slapping a woman, named Somaia, in the face after a short conversation, Saeed interviewed Somaia Wednesday, then aired private pictures of the woman, including one of her wearing a bathing suit.
Somaia later said staff at Saeed’s studio “stole” the pictures from her phone while it was charging out of her sight at the studio.
Saeed said that it would be “unfair” to blame the man, as Somaia was not dressed “appropriately” at the time of the incident; Somaia appeared in the video wearing jeans and a sleeveless shirt.
A massive online campaign has sprung up in response to Saeed, with hashtags dubbed “die Reham” and “try Reham.” The campaign called on companies to stop sponsoring the show or broadcast their advertisements during its air time.
One after another, different companies released statements denying any responsibility of the content of the show and announcing they would no longer advertise in the show.
The companies include Henkel, Pampers, Dove, Downey, Vatika, Aloe Vera, Clear, Almarai, Chipsy and others.
On her show’s Facebook page, which has 7.8 million likes, Saeed posted Friday that she resigned from Al-Nahar, and then wrote “I will not speak now; the truth will be out one day. No one can imagine the truth. Goodbye, society of virtue and fairness,”
However, she removed the two posts soon afterwards. A show was scheduled to interview her Friday evening on Al-Nahar, but the channel canceled the interview.
In her Thursday episode, Saeed argued that “no harassment” occurred in the video, and that she was trying to be professional by reporting the other side of the story.
“What happened today to Reham Saeed has changed the media forever… the impact of today on the media industry is like that of January 25 [2011 uprising] on the regime… the most important thing is that they don’t learn how to trick us like them,” a famous director wrote on Facebook Friday.
Reporting sexual harassment in Egypt
More than 97 percent of women who have been sexually harassed do not report the incident to authorities to avoid a scandal, according to a 2014 study by HarassMap.
Somaia appeared Thursday on Dream2 channel, saying that after the “scandal” that Saeed caused her, she regrets reporting the incident. She claims that the man in the video was verbally harassing her with sexual innuendos, prompting her to respond, but he slapped her twice in the face.
The man in the video was arrested Wednesday, but released on bail on Thursday after he claimed he spoke to her because he heard her swearing on the phone, adding that he hit her after she cursed him. However, an urgent trial was set for him on Nov. 7.
A report released by the United Nations in June 2013 calculated that 99.3 percent of Egyptian women had been sexually harassed.
After sexual harassment escalated into several incidents of mob sexual assaults on streets in recent years, Egypt’s Cabinet passed a sexual harassment law in May 2014 to toughen the penalty and broaden the definition of sexual harassment.
Anti-sexual harassment groups and human rights activists slammed Saeed for “justifying” sexual abuse and accused her of undermining efforts to end forms of condoning gender-based violence on TV.