Each year, various Egyptian and Arab TV channels compete to showcase diversified content during the holy month of Ramadan, often prompting debate on the suitability of content for families and children. Prank shows usually take the lion share of this debate.
This year, Ramez Magnoon Ramsy (Ramez is Officially Crazy) was one of the most anticipated prank shows as it has quickly become a Ramadan entertainment staple. The seventh edition of the Ramadan regular attracted 120 million views in the first two days of the Holy Month, along with Khaly Balek Men Fifi (Be Careful about Fifi), which is presented by actress and belly-dancer Fifi Abdo.
Both have been aired on the Dubai-based MBC network channels, among them MBC Masr which operates under the regulation of the MBC group.
However, since 2011, Ramez’s show in particular has been at the heart of contention as his pranks have involved heavily spooking guests – famous figures in entertainment, sport and media – through the use of animal props, underground tunnels, waterfalls, and this year, a torture chair. Moreover, the energetic host often carries out blunt and abrasive commentary regarding his guests, prompting many to question the influences of the show in pursuit of entertainment.
“We noticed that the shows are encouraging bullying, disrespecting and humiliating others in a funny way which is totally unacceptable; it is not fun,” Fady Safwat, the deputy-head of AlAbassiya Mental Health Public Relations told Egyptian Streets.
“We do find that releasing a statement calling the public prosecutor, and the Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation to suspend such programmes is a part of our message,”Safwat explained, noting that the action was taken by the head of the Abassiya Mental Health Hospital as content was perceived as clearly encouraging terror in the name of increasing fame.
Safwat asserted that such series has a bad impact on the behavior of children.
The expert referred to ‘Social Learning’, a known term in the field of education and psychology. Safwat added that children learn, while watching such a program, that making fun and bullying others is a common behavior which then affects their interactions with their peers.
Moreover, Mohamed el-Shamy, an Egyptian psychiatrist, explained that the name itself of Galal’s prank show increases stigma on people with mental disorders.
El-Shamy said that the program is based on the idea that individuals with mental disorders are, erroneously, sadistic in behavior. “Everyday, we [viewers] watch him smiling as the guests start screaming!” he said before adding that “this increases the feeling of lack of empathy and carelessness among children and teens when seeing others in real trouble.”
Naturally, the show is a popular hit among young audiences, namely children, who find certain elements attractive such as pranks and the use of reptiles which Ramez regularly uses to terrify his guests.
Dismissing criticism, the MBC Group spokesperson, Mazen Hayek, last week announced the that the show would continue being aired until the end of Ramadan.
However, the Egyptian Syndicate attempted to ban it on April 29 as it is considered a violation of ‘Egyptian ethics’ .
Counterarguing, Hayek added that the show was shot and produced in the United Arab Emirates; he commented that an audience is free to select the media it consumes and that the show delivers high returns to the group.
The Abassiya Hospital is not the only fighting element against Ramez show’s controversial content. Indeed, a demand for suspension was first filed on April 28 by the MP and head of Zamalek Club Mortada Mansour to the Public Prosecution office. Mansour mentioned that the show went against social norms and ethics.
On May 11, Hassan Basiony, a member of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, also requested a brief from the Prime Minister, Ministers of Information and Culture regarding the show.
These small elements of backlash culminated also in action as the Egyptian Media Syndicate issued a statement preventing Galal from practicing any media-related activity until his legal status with the Media syndicate adjusted, in accordance with the syndicate’s law.
On his part, Galal filed a lawsuit against the Chairperson of the Egyptian Media Syndicate Tariq Saada to annul Saada’s decision. Galal’s lawyers said that the lawsuit showed that the decision violated the law as Galal is considered a member of the Syndicate of Artists, not the Media Syndicate.
Audiences have also regularly expressed their anger with the show by signing a petition on the global website Change.org which gathered more than 50,000 signatures. On social media, namely Facebook and Twitter, the hashtag #Stop_Ramez_Galal, trended at the beginning of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Administrative Court issued a ruling that the program maintained its right to continue, and the case would eventually be referred to the State Commissioners Authority to prepare a legal report on the case.
Still, with Egypt’s entertainment industry thriving and with a penchant to pranking shows among mass audiences, it remains dubious whether the controversial show would undergo an absence by Ramadan 2021 and beyond.