The head of Egypt’s Radio and Television Union issued a ban on “intimate” scenes from television and cinema, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Dr. Sami al-Sharif instructed those in charge of supervising cinema and TV content to remove such scenes, including hugging, from all movies, whether old or new, al-Masry al-Youm quoted him as saying.
According to the newspaper the decision is applicable only to government channels. The ban will affect dozens of channels. The government has yet to elaborate on its definition of “intimacy.” For example, wills scenes depicting parents hugging their children be outlawed?
And how much would it cost to censor old movies? And does the ban apply to foreign movies shown at Egyptian theaters? What about video rentals?
Meanwhile, Egypt’s interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf is expected to appoint a new information minister in the next few days, the newspaper added.
The post has been vacant for nearly four months since the arrest of the former Information Minister Anas al-Fikki in February on charges of misusing public funds.
The former head of the country’s TV and Radio Union was also arrested in the same period on charges of wasting public money.
There is some speculation that the post of the information ministry may be scrapped altogether because the Finance Ministry has refused to pay its budget over the last month. The ministry says that the Radio and TV union is a council and not a ministry, which is why funds have been withheld. This has caused delays in payment of salaries and a reduction in profits.
This may explain the reasons behind the rumormongering but for a ministry to scrap, an amendment to the law has to take place.
Prior to banning intimate scenes, on April 30 Mr. Sharaf sacked state television and radio officials accused of conducting smear campaigns against protesters and inciting murder during the 25 January revolution that ended with the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt is considered to be the Hollywood of the Arab World, and seen as one of the liberal destinations amongst Arabs, especially from the Gulf countries.
The ban might exacerbate fears that Egypt is moving along the route of Iran in 1979 which saw Islamists seize power and alter Iran’s secularism altogether.
Earlier in the week, the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood party said it was vying for 45 to 50 percent of parliamentary seats in the upcoming elections but said they will not be “theocratic” in their form of governance.
They are, however, likely to be pleased with Tuesday’s decision by the Egyptian government to prohibit kissing, hugging and other forms of “intimacy” in locally produced films. Indeed, one might well ask the question, what sort of a future does the Egyptian movie industry now have?
(Dina Al Shibeeb of Al Arabiya can be contacted at email@example.com)