Egypt: Head of censorship board resigns after controversy over film

24 April 2014

The Lebanese diva Haifa Wehbe’s new film ‘Halawet Rooh’ (Beauty of the Soul) has been banned and withdrawn from cinema theatres in Egypt after criticism over immoral scenes. “The Egyptian Creativity Front, a coalition comprising the country’s three main artistic unions, has slammed the move as an ‘assault on the freedoms of thought, expression and art,’ reported Variety.


The decision to suspend the screening of the controversial film was made by interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, and the move led Ahmed Awad, the head of the State Censorship Board, to tender his resignation in protest against government interference in the work of the independent censorship board.

“The Premier has no right to suspend the screening of the film,” former Culture Minister Emad Abu Ghazy told AFP.

The Prime Minister had announced on the cabinet’s Facebook page that he yanked the film in response to calls from the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood and “to preserve the morals of our children.” The government body said the movie posed a “moral danger”.

The Egyptian-made movie was released nationwide on 3 April 2014 for adults only audiences. The trailer, published on on 12 February 2014, has been viewed almost four million times in just two months.

Clamp-down on artistic expression
The suspension of the film’s screening is seen by human rights groups as part of a wider government clampdown on artistic expression in Egypt.

In September 2013, in the wake of a prison sentence handed down to the Egyptian author Karam Saber for “contempt of religion” and “inciting sedition” in a collection of short stories, 46 Arab human rights organisations published a joint statement where they expressed concern for the diminishing space for free artistic expression and creativity.

In March 2014, the State Censorship Board banned 20 music videos from Egyptian tv channels for allegedly containing “explicit content”.

Variety – 24 April 2014:
Egypt Film Censorship Spat Sparks National Controversy
Controversy is mounting over film censorship in Egypt where the military-backed government has pulled steamy pic “Halawet Rooh,” Arabic for “Sweetness of Spirit,” from movie theatres, overruling the head of the country’s censorship board who resigned in protest sparking outrage. Article by Nick Vivarelli

Index on Censorship – 23 April 2014:
Egypt: Prime minister suspends controversial film
Rights activists and groups say the removal of Halawet Rooh (Beauty of the Soul) from theatres is part of a wider clampdown on artistic expression
Article by Shahira Amin

Index on Censorship – 21 March 2014:
Egypt: Secularists and conservatives battle over music videos
In a move that has sparked concern among Egyptian secularists, the country’s censorship committee this week banned 20 music videos allegedly containing “heavy sexual connotations” and featuring “scantily-dressed female singers and models.” Article by Shahira Amin


» AFTE-Freemuse report:  ‘Censors of Creativity’ (April 2014)

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