A recent decision by satellite TV channel al-Nahar to allow former presenter Reham Saeed back to work has enraged critics who had campaigned and managed to force the channel to suspend her show in October.
Saeed ignited public fury over an apparent prejudice toward Sarah Halim, a victim of an alleged sexual harassment. Halim had appeared in a video in which she was slapped on the face by a young man whom she accused of harassing her on her way out of a Cairo mall.
Saeed had invited Halim to the show so that she could tell her story, but the victim later accused the presenter of taking personal photos from her cell phone without her permission and airing them on screen. Saeed suggested that since Halim seemed to be dressing improperly in the photos, her account of the harassment incident could be questionable.
In a statement, al-Nahar said it had studied the incident in October, but said it would not reveal details as a lawsuit started by the victim is currently under judicial consideration. The channel added that the decision to halt the show “affected many stakeholders in the society, which prompted the channel to bring the show back to the screen sooner than originally expected in order to carry on with its charitable and humanitarian role.” The channel, however, said the show would be ad-free for an indefinite period of time.
Safwat al-Alem, a renowned media expert, said the channel should first ask the viewers their opinions on having the show return. “The channel and Riham Saeed should not think they are above the audience and the public’s will because it was the public that had shed light on Saeed’s malpractice,” he said.
The channel's most recent decision prompted a fresh campaign, this time to delete al-Nahar altogether from TV. Twitter hashtags promoting the idea produced 44,000 retweets in 24 hours.
A social media vote run by Al-Masry Al-Youm has revealed that between 74 and 77 percent of viewers oppose the return of Saeed’s show.
But an official at the channel seemed unfazed by the attack. “We won’t be asking Facebook and Twitter users for mercy. Reham Saeed’s fans are the poor people and if she has made any mistakes, she shall be punished judicially. She has the right to reappear before her disadvantaged fans,” the source said.
The sexual harassment episode was not the only source of controversy surrounding Saeed's show. In October, she was reportedly deported from Morocco, where local media said she had been arrested for misleading authorities. According to the reports, Saeed said she was going to interview Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred and film some tourist attractions, but was later apprehended for attempting to investigate the country’s witchcraft and prostitution hotspots.
She also sparked criticism over a report on Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
In the report, Saeed was seen on the back of a truck laden with supplies for refugees while raising the Egyptian flag. The refugees scrambled to the truck to receive handouts.
"This shall be the destiny of nations that doomed themselves with sedition….look how are they leaving their children on the ground and running for clothes. They push and beat each other,” Saeed said, talking to spectators while pointing to the desperate refugees.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm