Roula Abu Zaid, sister of TV correspondent Shady Abu Zaid, denied previous reports that Shady had been arrested for appearing in a video with actor Ahmed Malek passing out condom balloons to police officers in Tahrir Square on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution.
The video, which was widely circulated on social media on Monday night, shows Shady and Malek blowing up condoms and handing them out to police officers stationed in Tahrir with a message reading, “From Egypt’s youth to the police on January 25.” They also hug and kiss police officers and take pictures with them in mock celebration of the anniversary.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Roula clarified that statements from the Interior Ministry claiming that they had arrested her brother were incorrect. She added that freedom of expression was a constitutional right and the video was a work of comedy and did not include any content that was illegal, insulting, discriminatory or which incited violence.
Earlier on Sunday, reports surfaced in local media claiming that Shady, a correspondent for comedy TV show Abla Fahita, had been arrested for appearing in the video. The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm cited a security source saying that interior ministry personnel arrested Shady in his home and that he was under investigation for his role in the video.
Malek had also issued an apology on his Facebook page for the prank.
“I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who was offended by the video, especially the police,” Malek wrote, maintaining he didn’t expect the clip to be shared beyond his circle of friends and acknowledging “violations” in it.
“I am 20 years old and sometimes at that age ideas precede rational thinking and, unfortunately, these mistakes are on tape,” he said, emphasizing that this was impulsive behavior which he regrets.
Malek said he tried to delete the video, but it had already been widely circulated by that time. He pinned its popularity on the inability of his generation to express themselves freely, but added, “that still doesn’t give me the right to express my opinion in a way that violates others’ rights” or might tarnish the reputation of the revolution and revolutionaries.
“I hope people don’t deal with this situation as something that defines me, but as a passing moment that will not happen again,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Abla Fahita show issued a statement denouncing the video, asserting that its content violates public morals and is disrespectful. The show distanced itself from Abu Zaid, saying it has no relation to him “outside the scope of his work on the show,” and that it has nothing to do with his personal stances and behavior.
“[Abu Zaid] doesn’t represent the show or the production company and he is merely a correspondent working in limited capacity,” the statement read.
The Actors Syndicate decided to stop issuing licenses to Malek in light of the prank and referred him to investigation. Syndicate Head Ashraf Zaky phoned Malek and urged him to issue an apology, according to the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, although he isn’t a member of the syndicate.
The video was the topic of heated debate on social media, with critics describing it as “immoral” and calling for the boycott of the show using the the hashtag #مقاطعه_برنامج_ابله_فاهيتا (Boycott Abla Fahita). Others defended Malek and Abu Zaid, stating they have both been actively involved in the revolution since 2011, been the victims of police brutality and have the right to free speech.