Cairo: Egypt’s state media watchdog has urged entertainment producers and television stations to show respect for public morals in shows and commercials, which will hit the airwaves in the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan when TV viewing rates usually peak.

“It is necessary to respect the nature of the holy month,” The Supreme Council for Media Regulation said in a statement ahead of Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Monday in Egypt.

TV soap operas starring big-name actors as well as lavish commercials are usually shown during the lunar month in which Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset.

The regulator has vowed to take legal action against violators of the code of ethics that range from a hefty fine of 250,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh 53,648) to revoking the broadcasting licence.

“We will punish the channel, which will show serials that include scenes violating public morals,” Abdul Fattah Al Jebali, the council’s deputy head, said. “You can’t imagine the amount of complaints we receive from citizens about the Ramadan serials,” he told a local TV station. “The council is working to regulate the media scene that has been messy for decades.”

The regulator, set up in 2017, has an ad-hoc panel tasked with watching the operas that will be aired during Ramadan.

The measures have drawn critical criticism.

“The committee plays the role of the censor although Egypt has already a board of censorship,” said well-known entertainment critic Tareq Al Shenawi. “Egypt loses a lot by adopting this restrictive view,” he wrote in private newspaper Al Masri Al Youm.

The watchdog has defended its moves.

“Obliging commercials and serials to observe Egyptian traditions during the month of Ramadan and banning the broadcasting of any content that incites violence and discrimination among citizens does not infringe freedom of thinking and creativity,” Al Jebali told private Egyptian television Sada Al Balad this week