On August 25, the Complaints Committee of the Supreme Council for Information in Egypt is holding a special session to look into numerous complaints about TV anchor woman Riham Said, raised by the National Council for Women and a number of viewers for attacking overweight people.
Said had launched an attack against obese people on her show, saying: "Obese people are dead, they are a burden on their families and on the state and they pollute public space with their sweat and the toxins in their bodies” continuing “you look ugly when wearing a long jellabiya and you can barely walk, you lose part of your femininity”
Bullying and Stigmatizing
Her statements which came as she announced an anti-obesity campaign, angered Egyptians on social media, they demanded an investigation of the anchor woman who "did not respect people’s feelings".
Many considered her statements to be "flagrant bullying" against the overweight and "dangerous incitement," while others saw her as "trafficking with people for fame" which she us used to. People commented on social media that the broadcaster acted with a "complete lack of professionalism" when she issued judgments and promoted false health information using her program.
Among those who responded to Said's words were Egyptian actress Engy Wegdan, who addressing her in a video said: “I am a fat woman and I don't have all the diseases you mentioned, and there are many like me. I felt sorry for you when you spoke out about your illness recently although I don’t approve of your style. I don’t think it’s in your best interest to annoy the public and disturb them with this dispiriting talk, which isn’t your right either”.
Accused of orchestrating a kidnapping to liven up a TV show, Egypt’s controversial anchorwoman now says fat people are a burden on society and pollute the environment
Riham Said says: Obese people are dead people, they are a burden on their families and on society, they release too many toxins as they sweat in public, and fat women lose part of their femininity.
On August 23, the National Council for Women denounced the “Sabaya” presenter's remarks and said that they "caused distress to Egyptian women and contained inappropriate words and descriptions," pointing out that they had lodged a formal complaint with the Supreme Council for Information to take appropriate action.
Meanwhile, the head of the complaints committee at the Supreme Council for Information said that on August 23, that the committee will discuss the crisis on August 24 and call in the presenter for an investigation on 25 August.
An Attack by the Muslim brotherhood
Despite the uproar, Said did not back down from her statements and defended them in a video posted on her Instagram account on August 23, explaining that she perceived "The obese as a burden because they do not work" adding that “For a long time I had the disease of obesity and I suffered from it for long periods until I decided to confront my illness”.
"I only thought about getting rid of the excess weight when the actor Mahmoud Hamida criticized me in a hurtful way while I was acting with him in a play, he hurt me but he helped me to wake up”.
She pointed out that her speech was taken out of context and its circulation through social networking sites is the cause of the uproar, pointing out that "my critics are people belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood" who refused to support the campaign against obesity which is an initiative of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to care for the health of citizens."
She added: "People who wear jalabiya and Isdal (prayer dress) are simple people, one of them being my mother, and we need to talk to them in a different way for them to wake up, leave us to help people”.
She strongly denounced her critics, even though they included the National Council for Women, a government body, asserting that she was “glad we had annoyed so many people” and that she does not care about their campaigns against her because they are angry at the state's recent achievements.
A Record of Controversy
Said’s history is rife with controversial statements. In a recent ferocious attack she said: “anyone sympathetic with former President Mohamed Morsi”, who died in trial.
She was tried in 2018 on charges of inciting a person to kidnap two children to obtain a "scoop " by filming the moment of their return "thanks to her" but the defendant's admission that he abducted the children at the instigation of the program's producer and photographer turned the table against her”.
She had previously been accused of causing “shaming” of a girl she hosted on her program after being sexually harassed and physically assaulted in a mall. Saying the girl deserved what had happened to her and showed "private” photographs of the girl in revealing clothes including bathing suits on the air. But the girl accused Said of having stolen the photos from her phone, which she left outside the studio when filming the episode thus violating her privacy.
A social media campaign called on the angry public to boycott the network, which broadcasts the program until they suspended Said’s program, which they did for a period to calm public opinion.
Earlier this year, many were alarmed by the broadcaster's coverage of an incident known as the “Balcony child incident” where she pressured a 13-year-old child until he said he “did not love his mother”. A mental health professional told Raseef22 that what the broadcaster did with the child (emotional incitement to obtain a new statement) was far more dangerous than what the mother did which was forcing him to jump into a balcony.