Popular Egyptian television presenter Reham Saeed has been accused of arranging the kidnapping of two children for an episode of her TV programme about child abduction.
Egyptian prosecutors referred the case to a criminal court on Monday and ordered the detention of Reham Saeed, a cameraman and the editor of her programme on charges of inciting child abduction and human trafficking, reports local news portal Ahram Online.
Ahram cited a source in the prosecution who said an investigation implicated the presenter and her team in the kidnapping. She and her crew allegedly used a mediator to convince kidnappers to abduct the two children from Salam neighbourhood in Cairo.
They reportedly told the kidnappers that they would sell the children to a family in an Arab country, with the intention of recording the deal and reporting the kidnappers to the police. The kidnappers were caught after the children’s families reported their disappearance in January. They accused the alleged mediator who had appeared on the show which aired last month. He also accused the cameraman and the editor, reports Ahram.
Controversial Reham Saeed has denied involvement in the kidnapping. Her show Sabaya El-Kheir, which airs on private TV channel Al-Nahar, has generated a lot of controversies in the past.
Saeed was suspended for three months last year for discussing extra-marital affairs by introducing a married woman and her lover on her show. She has also been accused of exploiting stories for attention, resulting in two prison sentences for defamation in 2016 which she narrowly escaped after appeals.
The head of the Egyptian media union Hamdy El-Konayissy had said last year that Saeed discusses deviant issues in Egypt which “breached professional and ethical standards.”
Other television presenters in Egypt have faced similar reproach from authorities including notorious presenter Doaa Salah who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2017 over a statement she made on her show that was deemed immoral.
A misdemeanour court in Cairo found her guilty of inciting debauchery and sentenced her to three years in prison including a 10,000 Egyptian Pound ($566) fine to be paid to a lawyer who filed the lawsuit against her.
The episode of her “With Dody” show that got her in trouble discussed the choices of women to be single mothers. The show was suspended for three months by Egypt’s media union which said the discussion “promoted immoral ideas that are alien to our society and threaten the fabric of the Egyptian family.”
They also accused her of performing “bizarre and controversial acts” on her programme including wearing a fake pregnant belly and opening her show with a bubble bath in a bathtub.
Egypt is a conservative country with a censored media that has been shut down on several occasions to curb the spread of information. Journalists have also been arrested and jailed for doing their work.