AFRICANGLOBE – Rania Badawy of the private satellite station Tahrir hung up on the Ethiopian ambassador to Cairo during a live call-in over the contested Grand Renaissance Dam.
On Wednesday, Rania Badawy, a talk show host on the privately-owned Tahrir satellite channel, got into a heated argument with Ethiopian envoy Mahmoud Dardir over the Grand Renaissance Dam, a multi-billion hydroelectric dam that has been a source of contention between the two countries for over a year.
Near the end of the six-minute-long call, Badawy asked the envoy if Addis Ababa insisted on pressing forward with the dam’s construction in its current form and capacity, which Egypt fears will harm its share of the Nile’s water.
The ambassador replied: “You do not understand about dams and are talking in a bumptious tone.”
Badawy then angrily told the ambassador he had “crossed his limits” and that he should not “characterise [her] talk or speak to [her] about arrogance”. She then thanked him and abruptly ended the call, as his voice trailed off in an attempt to reply.
The head of the TV station, Mohamed Khedr, told reporters on Sunday that the move to suspend Badawy came amid his channel’s “sense of responsibility,” adding that the management was revamping the programme map ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan – which should fall on 29 June.
In comments carried by state news agency MENA earlier in June, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom – on a visit to Cairo at the time – criticised local media for sending “very negative messages, sometimes systematically, that create a feeling of rejection” between the people of both nations. The senior diplomat, however, said that Addis Ababa and Cairo were looking forward to a “new era” of mutual ties.
Almost 10 days ago, the same station suspended another female broadcaster who made light of mob sexual assaults against women in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during celebrations for President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s inauguration earlier this month.
Khedr said Sunday that the suspended anchorwoman, Maha Bahnasy, would return to the airwaves after Ramadan.
MORE: Tahrir TV Expels Anchor Over Heated Interview With Ethiopian Ambassador
Tahrir TV channel expelled anchor Rania Badawy days after she hung up on Ethiopia’s ambassador to Cairo Mahmoud Dardir.
“You crossed the limits, thank you,” Badawy said before she hung up on Dardir while he was still talking in a phone interview Wednesday on the controversial Renaissance Dam.
Badawy snapped after Dardir answered “you do not understand [anything] about dams and speak in a disrespectful tone.”
They talked over each other, and then Badawy said “I ask, you have to answer or refuse to comment and that is your right.”
Media professionals and professors criticized Badawy’s attitude in the interview, especially that her action coincided with sensitive talks between the two states on the Renaissance Dam.
Mass communications professors at Cairo University Safwat al-Alem told reporters that Badawy’s performance was not “professional,” especially that she was interviewing a diplomatic personality.
“A media professional should be a model in his interviews and should not try to influence public opinion by acting heroic,” Alem said.
Egyptian-Ethiopian relations deteriorated during the reign of former President Mohamed Morsi when Ethiopia began constructing the Renaissance Dam.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said during his inauguration that he would not let the dam harm relations between the two countries and promised meetings with Ethiopian officials.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency on June 19 that Sisi will visit Ethiopia in two weeks according to Anadolu news agency.
On June 11, Tahrir TV also suspended anchor Maha Bahnassy following comments many regarded as offensive.
While the channel’s correspondent in Tahrir Square was reporting incidents of sexual harassment during popular celebrations of Sisi’sSunday inauguration June 3, Bahnassy said laughing “[they] are happy, the people are joking.”
Bahnassy later claimed on her Facebook page that her comment was not directed at the correspondent or about the incident, but rather a comment to her guests about the “people’s happiness.”
“Is it possible that a woman would feel happy that another woman like her was harassed?” Bahnassy wrote.
Bahnassy’s reaction, however, stirred massive outrage and comments on social networking websites accused her of “justifying rape” and said reactions like hers blame victims.