Egyptian court convicts TV presenter over derogatory comments made to Dubai model
Tamer Amin mocked Merhan Keller live on Egypt's Al-Nahar television
An Egyptian court handed down a jail sentence to a television presenter for derogatory comments he made about a Dubai-based model.
Tamer Amin was found to have broken a law governing insults and breach of privacy when he mocked Merhan Keller, 30, live on television in June, 2019.
The segment on his show Akher Al Nahar on the entertainment channel Al-Nahar featured an image of the Egyptian-born model alongside actor Mohammed Ramadan, accompanied by words that a judge in Cairo ruled were slanderous, insulting and of a sexual nature.
Amin was handed a suspended two-year jail sentence and ordered to pay compensation of 40,000 pounds ($2,550) last Thursday.
Just the fact that an Egyptian court has found him guilty is a big step forward
At the time of the incident, Keller was in the news for sharing lewd comments that were sent to her by star footballer Amr Warda during the Africa Cup of Nations – for which Warda publicly apologised.
Keller, whose full name is Merhan Hisham Abdel Qader, was subject to a vicious social media hate campaign.
Haitham Abbas, Keller's lawyer, told a judge that she intended to sue Amin for "large damages" and that the episode had affected his client's work and income.
Speaking to The National after the verdict, Keller said the ruling was a victory for Egyptian women who are subject to harassment, abuse and crude language.
“Just the fact that an Egyptian court has found him guilty is a big step forward,” she said.
“Despite his power and influence as a famous figure, this did not help him.
“The last two years have been really hard."
Keller recently left the UAE after nine years and now lives in San Francisco, but hopes to return to Dubai.
She said she would seek compensation of $1.4 million for the damage that she claims was done to her reputation as a model and businesswoman.
The incident put the spotlight on deep-rooted misogyny in some quarters of Egyptian society – although campaigners say there is a long way to go.
Incident stemmed from run-in with star footballer
Dozens of fake social media accounts were set up in Keller’s name after she publicised the messages she received from Warda, 27, who plays for FC Volos in the Greek Super League.
Warda was dropped from the summer 2019 tournament in Cairo, before being reinstated when he won support from teammates, including Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.
Keller received a deluge of threats of sexual violence after she revealed the content of the messages.
In January 2020, Tamer Amin told The National he was merely covering the comments of Warda in a news report and defended his actions.
“I perhaps spoke in a sarcastic way, but that was within the permissible media criticism and analysis, which included neither insults nor defamation of Ms Keller," he said at the time.
“She is the one who spread the news, she published the posts and rhetoric about Amr Warda and made it public.
While Amin will be responsible for the compensation awarded to Keller, Al-Nahar channel could also be pursued for damages. “Public figures have to accept criticism, even if it is hot and sarcastic.
“I received so many messages from celebrities and influencers in Egypt who have also been called names or had derogatory remarks made about them on television,” Keller said.
Scores of women in Egypt and elsewhere posted videos of their personal experiences and messages of support, accompanied by the hashtag “speakup” and “womenempowerment”.
Keller hopes putting the spotlight on the situation will help to change attitudes and behaviour.
“People think that if you complain against sexual harassment, then you must be guilty of encouraging it,” she said.
“For years, women have had to put up with this way of thinking. It has crippled half of society with fear and trauma.
“Now, finally, women are speaking out."
Updated: December 16, 2020 04:05 PM