No less than five al-Jazeera female news anchors have handed in their resignation from the popular Arab news television station. The reason – "Harassment and criticism of dress and claims of immodesty". The resignation was reported in Sunday's edition of London-based al-Hayat newspaper.
Sources told the newspaper the five anchors to resign are Jumana Taymoor, Lina Zahr al-Din and Julnar Musa of Lebanon, Luna al-Shibl of Syria, and Nofar Afali of Tunisia.
In addition to the five presenters resigning, three more female anchors wrote a protest letter to the network's management. The three are Khadija Bin Qanna, Eman Bannora, and Lily a-Shili.
According to the al-Hayat report, its sources said, "The al-Jazeera presenters are considered the most modestly dressed presenters of all Arab satellite channels," hinting to other Arab television channels that show female presenters in more revealing attire.
Nonetheless, the Qatar-based network has decided to take a very firm approach to its dress code, and, according to al-Hayat's sources, the female anchors have been subjected to offensive remarks.
'Qatari society takes pride in woman's participation'
According to the report, eight of the network's female presenters, including those who have now resigned, sent a letter of complaint to one of the station's mangers in January. In their letter, the women protested the repeated remarks and public criticism that had been leveled at them regarding "clothing and modesty".
Al-Hayat's sources lashed out at the station saying, "The network's path of extremism contradicts the positive principles of openness and transparency in the Qatari society, which takes pride in the woman's participation in various fields."
The sources said it is possible that additional female anchors may submit their resignation in the future.
Al-Jazeera Director-General Wadah Khanfar appointed a committee to probe the matter, and its recommendations were submitted last Tuesday.
"It is the network's prerogative to oversee the general appearance of the anchors on screen," the committee ascertained. "It is its prerogative to place conditions and restrictions that support the spirit of the channel and its principles."
The committee rejected the presenters' claims, and denied that any criticism of them bordered on "harassment" or was meant to hurt them personally or hurt their reputations.
The committee stressed that all comments were made on the general look allowed on the al-Jazeera screen. Either way, it seems this affair is far from over.