UK & World News

  • 12 February 2014, 20:24

Topless Images Of Lebanese Skier Spark Row

A Lebanese skier, currently competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics, has found herself at the centre of a heated controversy after images of her posing for a racy photoshoot appeared online.

Jackie Chamoun has faced a wave of criticism from sections of the Lebanese press for the photoshoot she took part in.

The country's caretaker sports minister called for an investigation "to take the required steps to avoid harming Lebanon's reputation" and Lebanon's Olympic Committee condemned the skier's behaviour.

In the official photos - which were taken for a calendar - Ms Chamoun appears topless, but with skis strategically placed across her body.

But a 'behind the scenes' video, which shows her undressed and preparing for the photoshoot, emerged online sparking the controversy.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Jackie Chamoun apologised and said: "The video and photos that you are now seeing are part of the making of, the preparation, it wasn't supposed to go public.

"Anyways, I want to apologise to all of you, I know that Lebanon is a conservative country and this is not the image that reflects our culture."

But thousands of people have come out to support the skier, with many criticising journalists and politicians for highlighting a seemingly insignificant issue in light of the crises facing the country.

The 'I Am Not Naked' campaign has more than 5,000 likes on Facebook with male and female models holding up #stripforjackie signs in solidarity.

An Avaaz petition calling for the investigation into Ms Chamoun's photos to be dropped received over 1,500 signatures in just 24 hours.

The photographers behind the 'I Am Not Naked' campaign say on their Facebook page: "Some women are beaten or killed, others are raped, and the media shifts their attention to a confident talented beautiful woman who represents her country at the Olympic Games.

"This is about telling our 'peers' to set their priorities straight. This is to fight censorship. This is for freedom."

Many people have questioned why the issue has taken priority over political instability - politicians have failed to form a Government for nearly a year- and increased violence in cities across the country.

Middle East analyst and commentator, Patrick Galey, told Sky News: "I can't think of a clearer example of Lebanese political impotence than ordering an inquiry into a photoshoot while bombs go off throughout the country and sorely needed reform and infrastructure projects gather dust.

"This is a cause that has been taken up by some outlets, partly because it wishes to draw attention away from the terrible and serious developments in Lebanon, and probably because it wishes too to draw some heat away from (media) owners, who are clearly acting contrary to national interests by refusing to form a government to deal with Lebanon's real problems."

He, and others, also point out a recent Ministry of Tourism advert which was criticised by women's rights campaigners in Lebanon for exploiting the female form to attract visitors.

Ms Chamoun is one of only two Lebanese participants at the Sochi Games.

She recently said in an interview that none of Lebanon's skiers have financial support so athletes have to pay their own expenses for off-season training camps, competitions and equipment. 

She is set to compete in the slalom and giant slalom skiing events next week.

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