Eight women anchors have been suspended by Egypt state television until they lose weight.
According to a BuzzFeed News report, they were kicked off air sequel to a decision by the Egyptian Radio and Television Union, which gave them a month to “slim down” and suggested they go on a diet.
One of the anchors, who has two shows on state TV and said she has worked there for more than 15 years, called the move “moral assassination”. Her words:
“I have worked here for more than 15 years and now suddenly those who hate me are publicly defaming me and my career.”
But despite outcry by women’s rights groups and media commentators, state TV officials have defended their decision saying Egyptians should be proud of the decision taken by the ERTU.
Amr Al-Shennawaii, a chief manager for a state-run station, said:
“There are standards for those who appear on television screen all around the world. For many years, people have mocked Egyptian presenters because of their appearance and lack of qualification, so when we are finally trying to bring reform, people are angry. That’s strange.”
“The eyes see before the ears hear, so appearance is important.”
He also said that the same standard would apply to men, although no male anchors have yet been suspended.
Egyptian women’s-rights groups aren’t happy, particularly as no weight requirement is stated in the union’s hiring guidelines.
Describing the decision as outright discrimination, Dalia El-Hamamsy, the executive director of an NGO that promotes fair views of Arab women said:
“Some jobs might have a dress code or appearance conditions, but weight, according to my information, is not one of them at Egyptian state TV. If this was among the official conditions for presenters, someone needs to reveal the state TV’s hiring guidelines.”
“It’s 2016, and we will not accept someone telling a woman, ‘sorry you’re fat, go home.’”
She added that her organization is prepared to fight the ruling either through social media or by filing a court case.