Egyptian TV host Khadija Khatab in a file photo while presenting a programme on state television's Second Channel. Image Credit:

Cairo: Egyptian television authorities have temporarily suspended eight women anchors due to their being overweight, as part of the state-owned broadcaster‘s efforts to shed its sluggish image.

The decision was issued this week, giving the eight one month to go on a diet and get slim before they are allowed back on television screens, local media reported.

Some rights advocates have criticised the suspicion of the eight and many have raised eyebrows as to why only women were targeted.

It was not immediately clear if the curbs will be applied to male television anchors too.

Khadija Khatab, one of the suspended TV hosts, condemned the move. “It is humiliating and even scandalous,” she told privately owned newspaper Al Watan.

“It is just an attempt to get rid of the successful [presenters] and retain others who present programmes that have no strong content.”

“Judging anybody on the basis of his or her body weight is not the right criterion,” said Eman Beibers, chairperson of the Cairo-based Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women. “Our problem is that we judge people by appearance rather than performance and content. I’d have appreciated the suspension decision if those presenters were suspended because they did their job badly or appeared with excessive make-up. It does not matter if the presenter is fat or thin as long as he or she does not use nasty words on the air and knows well how to deal with guests,” Beibers told Gulf News.

“We have Oprah Winfrey as a successful example,” she said, referring to the celebrated American talk show host.

“This decision sounds the alarm for all TV presenters that they have to pay attention to their appearances, including body weight,” TV chairman Majdi Lasheen said.

“This is the beginning of a plan to apply discipline and regulations designed to restore the beautiful image of all official TV stations,” he added in press remarks. “The decision to suspend the eight presenters is aimed at giving them a chance to change their looks in order to fit appearance on television.”

In recent years, Egyptian television, the Arab world’s oldest, has lagged behind in competition with a proliferation of satellite channels that employ mainly young TV hosts.

In April this year, Safaa Hejazi, an ex-news presenter on state television, was appointed head of the Egyptian Radio and TV Union. She has repeatedly pledged to overhaul state broadcasters in order to make them competitive and reverse their losses.