Last week, Saudi Arabian satellite TV channel Al Ekhbariya became the center of controversy when they featured an anchorwoman during a broadcast without a veil—supposedly the first time a female presenter has done so. While many decried the newscaster's appearance as a disgrace to tradition, others saw it as an indication of evolving attitudes towards women.
Al Ekhbariya, a state-sponsored channel run by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and Information, launched in 2004 and actually introduced Saudi Arabia's first ever female presenter. However, officials have been quick with the damage control in this case, stating that the incident was a fluke and would not be happening again, reports Gulf News:
"She was a correspondent reading the news from a studio in Britain," Saleh Al Mughailif, the spokesperson for the Saudi radio and television, said, referring to the woman's appearance on Al Ekhbariya news channel.
"She was not in a studio inside Saudi Arabia and we do not tolerate any transgression of our values and the country's systems," he said, quoted by Al Tawasul news site.
For the record, unveiled women have appeared before on Saudi TV, just not as broadcasters for government-run news programs. Some think allowing the unveiled woman to present was actually a way to test the water to see how people would respond to such a drastic move.
Hafez, a blogger, said that the unveiled anchorwoman was "a test to gauge people's reactions to the sight of women without head covers on Saudi national television news."
While the response seems to be pretty clear that people and the Ministry of Culture and Information are not yet down with unveiled women, it's another huge move for the country that (despite that pesky driving ban among other things) appears to be making more and more progress in women's rights.
Image via Youtube.