TV show suspended after outrage over anchor’s treatment of assault victim leads to advertising boycott
Courtesy: Al-Nahar TV

Popular television show Sabaya al-Kheir was temporarily suspended by Al-Nahar channel on Friday in the wake of a boycott campaign, after the program’s host Reham Saeed aired personal photos of a sexual assault victim to discredit her.


In an official statement, Al-Nahar asserted that an investigation would be launched into the contentious episode that triggered the anger of thousands of social media users since it was aired on Tuesday.


“Al-Nahar channel offers its apology to all those outraged by the episode in question and reaffirms its respect to every woman and girl of our respected people,” the statement read.


Fifteen companies announced on Thursday that they would end their advertising contracts sponsoring the show following a strong online boycott campaign that called on all companies sponsoring the show to end their contracts.


The companies that heeded the call include Alo Eva, Betty Juice, Maraey, Daber Amla, Zenith Media, Vetrac, Fine, Al-Araby, Edita, Persil, Dove, Chipsy, Clear and Pampers.


During the episode in question, Saeed interviewed Somaya Tarek, who was harassed and slapped on the face by a man in a Cairo mall. Tarek blamed mall security and police for their reluctance to arrest her attacker, when Saeed started commenting on her “revealing” dress speculating that this is what may have triggered the man to harass her.


Following the interview, Saeed aired personal photos of Tarek on the beach in a bikini with a man holding her, and others with her holding a bottle of whisky or appearing to be scantily clad.


Saeed claimed the director of the show received several pictures of Tarek on WhatsApp and said she was disappointed by what she saw.


Tarek accused Saeed’s production team of stealing the photos from her personal phone when she was charging it while filming the interview, Tarek said in another interview with TV anchorman Wael al-Ibrashy on Thursday.


“Just as there are harassers in the streets, some girls have really gone off limits. You won’t like this, but this is the truth. Keep your girls in check and they won’t be [harassed],”Saeed said.

“I would have been really mistaken if I overreacted and criticized the police and mall security had these photos not been sent to me.”


A wave of anger against Saeed on Twitter ensued, with users creating the hashtag #موتي_يا_ريهام (Die Reham). Following the announced suspension of the show, #ريهام_ماتت (Reham died) began trending. 


Anger was also directed toward Al-Nahar channel following its announcement that on Friday Saeed will appear on the channel’s main show Al-Nahar Al-Youm with host Khaled Salah in a “hot episode” concerning the scandal.


Social media users accused the channel of trying to “polish Saeed’s reputation” so as not to risk the revenues it gets from her show.


The campaign threatened to extent the boycott call to the channel itself if Saeed’s show is not suspended.


“We don’t want to see Saeed again, we did not do this only for what happened with the mall girl, we are fed up with Saeed in general,” the campaign asserted in a Facebook statement.


But the channel was quick to respond to the threats. “I’m not appearing today with Reham, Al-Nahar will take a strong position out of respect to the people,” the Al-Nahar Al-Youm ’s host Salah tweeted on Friday.


Leading political satirist Bassem Youssef was among the first to endorse the boycott campaign, offering to advertise for the products of the companies who will withdraw their contracts with Saeed’s show, using the hashtag #اعلانك_عندنا or your ad is with us.


“Why would you spend millions advertising on a program when five million followers can see you here?” Youssef tweeted addressing advertisers. Youssef’s Twitter account soon turned into an advertising hub for the products of the boycotting companies.


Meanwhile, prosecution decided on Thursday to refer Tarek’s harasser to misdemeanor court, scheduled to start on November 7. The harasser was released on LE100 bail pending investigation into the case, according to press reports.


Saeed has also come under fire for a number of other incidents recently. In September, she was criticized for insulting the Syrian people after filming in a refugee camp in Lebanon and calling Syrian refugees disrespectful, lost and ruined while handing them food and clothes.


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