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LONDON – A female news presenter on a Saudi state-owned news channel was at the center of a social media storm this week after appearing on air not wearing the Islamic headdress.
Presenting a report for Riyadh-based Al Ekhbariya, the presenter’s decision to not put on the traditional hijab prompted a wide range of responses online, with some commentators condemning the move while others suggesting it was a bold step forward for the Kingdom.
But any hopes that the broadcaster, which became Saudi’s first channel to employ female presenters after it launched in 2004, would be helping push women’s rights further were soon dashed.
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In quotes published on the Al Tawasul news website, Saudi TV official Saleh Al Mughailif said that the presenter had been filmed in the U.K. and that the incident would not happen again.
“She was not in a studio inside Saudi Arabia, and we do not tolerate any transgression of our values and the country’s system,” he was quoted as saying.
The enforcement of hijab wearing varies across the Kingdom, with some regions stricter than others. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal — the multi-billionaire entrepreneur who holds a sizeable stake in News Corp — is believed to not insist that women wear the headdress in the offices of his Kingdom Holding company. Prince Alwaleed’s Rotana entertainment group also backed 2012’s multi-award winning Wadjda, the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first film by a Saudi female director, Haifaa Al Mansour.
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