The Shoura Council has passed a new law that would make it mandatory for women TV anchors working in the Kingdom to wear modest dress and not show off their beauty.
Ahmed Al-Zailaee, chairman of the media committee at the consultative body, said once the law is passed by the Cabinet it would apply to all women media workers in the Kingdom, including those of MBC and Rotana.
Latifa Al-Shualan, a Shoura member, expressed surprise at the council’s interest in the dress code of women TV anchors, and said there are other more important issues to tackle.
“There are many other pressing issues such as the danger posed by the media activities of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group,” she said.
Al-Shualan called for serious efforts to confront the smear campaigns against the Kingdom by some in the powerful international media. “Our media should highlight the Kingdom’s important role as a moderate political force in the region,” she added.
Before the Shoura decision, the Kingdom’s national television stations asked its women anchors to wear the traditional coverall abaya.
Presenter Budoor Ahmad was the first presenter to appear wearing the new-look black abaya adorned with a blue stripe on Al-Ekhbariya news station.
Noora Al-Adwan, a member of the Shoura, had called for a dress code for all Saudi women working at private television stations funded by Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim Abu Obat, another Shoura member, called for a national dress code for all women representing the country, and not just for television presenters.
“We need to have a clear Islamic dress for all women as their national dress,” he said. “The dress code must not be confined to women presenters and news readers on television,” he added.
Abu Obat’s call comes after Manal Radhwan, a senior member of the Saudi diplomatic mission to the United Nations, caused controversy when she did not wear a scarf or abaya while delivering a speech at the UN Security Council on Jan. 30. The pictures went viral on the Internet.
Hailed as the first Saudi woman to address the Security Council, Radhwan, however, was harshly criticized for her “non-conventional” looks.
According to a local Internet-based publication, higher authorities have insisted that those representing Saudi Arabia must reflect the values and social traditions of the Saudi people.
Some bloggers called for punitive measures against the diplomat.
“I wonder who allowed this woman to speak on behalf of Saudi Arabia at an international gathering,” one blogger asked. “She has caused us deep embarrassment. Everyone knows that we are a conservative society and I call for action against those who are implicated in this embarrassment, including those who allowed her to speak on behalf of Saudi Arabia.”