Eight female Egyptian news presenters have been suspended from their jobs until they lose weight. That’s right. They’ve been given one month to lose weight or they permanently lose their job.
This ultimatum was given out by Egypt Radio and TV Union’s (ERTU) director Saffa Hegazi. According to the Independent, Hegazi, a former female anchor for Egyptian news herself, who was recently appointed director, took the task of competing with international satellite channels who employ “younger” TV anchors.
As those channels in comparison to the state run broadcast get more ratings by millennials, her eyes fell upon the current female Egyptian news anchors and deemed them the problem.
Which was countered by Mostafa Shawky, a free press advocate with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, who said “They don’t understand that people don’t watch them because they have no credibility, skills or quality…It has nothing to do with looks, just goes to show that actual skill is not something they care about”
One of the eight women, Khadija Khattab, who is a presenter for a 30 minute news program, Itelala (Views) in Egypt spoke to the Guardian.
“It’s unfair, It’s discriminatory. They discriminate between men and women. They haven’t gone to any men, accusing them of being fat and suspending them. Only women. My appearance is my business, not theirs. It’s my private matter and in fact, I’m the way a common, natural Egyptian woman is. You can’t judge a presenter only by how much they weigh.”
Khattab mentioned that many people were supportive of her yet there were also those that were supportive of the decision by ERTU
Two writers for Al-Ahram, an Egyptian news site, for example, had opposing views. Whereas Alaa El-Sadaani said she was sickened, Fatima al-Sharawi asked if eight were enough.
Prominent NGO women’s centre for guidance and legal awareness director Reda Eldanbouki told The Guardian,
“This decision was shameful and violates various clauses of the Egyptian constitution and objectifies women and is abusive towards them. It also violates the ability for women to work freely in public positions. It contradicts the most important agreements that demands total equality between the genders in public positions and also the agreements to end all discrimination against women.”
Eldanbouki demanded ERTU to recall the decision, but they refused. However they did say that the suspended TV presenters will be paid their usual amount.