Vodafone Egypt suspends all ads in response to government censorship of TV commercial
Abla Fahita under suspicion

Vodafone Egypt announced on Friday that it is halting all “advertising campaigns in all media and broadcasting channels,” in response to the suspension of one of its television advertisements by the Supreme Media Regulatory Council (SMRC) on grounds of “threatening public morality.”

“Vodafone Egypt was surprised by the decision of the Supreme Media Regulatory Council to suspend the advertisement from being broadcast, as the company was not officially informed of the decision and was not invited to a hearing session before it was made, despite having responded to the request of the Consumer Protection Authority [CPA],” the company said in a statement on Friday.

In its statement, the telecom giant explained that it had met with the CPA and agreed to make edits to the ad, broadcasting an altered version thereafter.

The company stressed its “full respect for the Egyptian audience and social values and to all government bodies responsible for regulating media and advertising work and content in Egypt in line with public morality,” but said will halt its ad campaigns until “the situation is clarified with the relevant bodies.”

The SMRC suspended the advertisement, which features popular puppet media host Abla Fahita and advertises a new mobile data package for Vodafone users, on Thursday, saying that the ad “contained utterances and scenes that do not comply with public values, promote inappropriate behavior, threaten public decency and contain crass language.”

Neither the SMRC nor Vodafone referred to the specific content under scrutiny.

Vodafone did not respond to Mada Masr’s requests for comment regarding the nature of the SMRC complaints against the ads or the extent of their advertising boycott, or whether it might resort the filing a lawsuit against the council.

The SMRC was formed in April of this year under media law 92/2016, which was issued last December. The law deals with the regulation of press and media institutions and grants the council wide purview in supervising media content in all its forms.

The fourth article of the law grants the council the authority to establish and implement rules and standards for press, media and advertising, in coordination with respective syndicates.

The SMRC began applying its mandate last June, when it imposed hefty fines on TV channels and radio programs found to be broadcasting “offensive material,” and issued a long report criticizing television content broadcast during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan that contained sexual suggestiveness, factual errors in historical dramas, political undertones, or promoted “unacceptable behavior.”

In 2014, another ad by Vodafone Egypt featuring Abla Fahita came under fire when allegations that the ad contained “secret codes sending out terrorist messages” were levelled against it. Officials from the company were summoned for questioning by State Security Prosecution about the accusations, but the issue was later dropped.


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