Shahira Amin, the Egyptian state TV journalist who was the first person to
interview Gilad Schalit minutes after he was turned over to Egyptian mediators,
defended criticism over the interview on Tuesday.
Amin was roundly
slammed by Israeli media for holding up the kidnapped soldier’s return home, for
presenting him with loaded questions designed to highlight her country’s central
role in the negotiating process and for asking harsh and inappropriate questions
that Schalit was stumbling to answer.
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According to Amin, who became known
internationally when she publicly quit her job as a state TV news anchor in
protest during last February’s uprising in Egypt, said that she had tried
obtaining information from a Red Cross official about Schalit’s health before
interviewing him but was told merely that the soldier was “in good
“I feel very sorry for him, like a mother to a child,” she said
in an interview with The Jerusalem Post
. “I saw him and I saw the Palestinians
and I feel deep compassion for all of them. It’s enough of conflict and I think
that it’s time we all strived to live in peace.
“I did apologize to him
for keeping him waiting and I told him that the world wanted to know how he was
feeling,” said Amin. “I did ask him what he thought of Egypt’s efforts and if he
had a message for the Egyptian people,” said Amin, who maintained that the
questions were not forced upon her.
“I felt that after so many attempts
by others to mediate this exchange, it was important to highlight Egypt’s role
in bringing this about.”
Amin said she found him “thin and pale and very
“His voice was faint and he could not concentrate at all,”
she told the Post.
“[Schalit] told me that he already knew that he was
set to be released because the conditions of his captivity had changed over the
last month,” said Amin.
She added that she had not been certain that an
interview with the soldier would happen right up until “I saw him in front of
“No one else knew what questions I was going to ask him, they were
completely my own questions, that I wrote alone,” said Amin, explaining that
over the past few months – since the regime change in Egypt – she has returned
as a freelancer to the state-run Nile TV station, hosting a weekly show, and in
addition works as a reporter for the international news channel CNN.
offered Schalit the choice of being interviewed in English or in his native
She said he started off speaking in English but after it became
clear that he was struggling to speak, the translator was brought in, allowing
him to respond in Hebrew.
“I shook his hand and I offered him some water
before we started,” said Amin, who has also been criticized for conducting this
interview at such a sensitive time.
She claimed that she saw no evidence
Schalit had been coerced into giving this interview or been told what answers to
Among his responses were indications that he would like to be
involved in promoting better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians in
Amin, a popular TV presenter in Egypt, became a symbol of the
January revolution when she famously quit her job on the spot after realizing
that the state-run television station was deliberately manipulating the news.