A female anchor ignited a controversy when she appeared without a headscarf during a national news broadcast on a Saudi government-run channel. A clip of the broadcast was posted to YouTube on July 29 and has been making the rounds on social media.
This week, a spokesman for Saudi news channel Al Ekhbariya said the woman in the segment was delivering her news bulletin out of the London office and said similar incidents would not happen in the future. “She was not in a studio inside Saudi Arabia and we do not tolerate any transgression of our values and the country’s systems,” Saleh Al Mughailif said, per Gulf News.
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Back in 2004, Al Ekhbariya made headlines when it introduced the country to its first female anchor, who stepped in front of the camera to present the channel's very first broadcast, according to The Independent.
Though, as Gulf News notes, women have appeared without headscarves on Saudi television during the airing of foreign programs, some on Saudi social media apparently took issue with the news anchor's appearance. Other netizens, however, didn't find it so shocking.
— karishma (@kariiselsewhere) August 5, 2014
Female news anchor reads news without covering her hair. Saudia Arabia goes nuts. Just ridiculous http://t.co/Or6lLk6Wf8
— Mark Hillary (@markhillary) August 5, 2014
Though Saudi Arabia still prohibits women from driving, women have begun taking on more roles in the strict Islamic country's gender-segregated society. According to Time, women have been permitted in recent years to work as supermarket cashiers and sales clerks at lingerie and cosmetic shops. In 2013, King Abdullah Bin Abdul appointed 30 female members to the country's advisory body, the Shura Council -- a controversial move heralded as a leap forward for women.
“Just the visuals of seeing women sitting in the Shura, with their faces uncovered, making equal decisions with men, that alone will make women in authority more acceptable to society,” Saudi news channel Al Akbaria’s head of programming, Rawda al-Jazani, said of the king's appointments, per Time.