Egyptian TV journalist defends interview with Schalit

Shahira Amin slammed by Israeli media for holding up kidnapped soldier’s return home and presenting him with inappropriate questions.

Shahira Amin 311 (photo credit: Ruth Eglash)
Shahira Amin 311
(photo credit: Ruth Eglash)
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 spirits.”
“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 overwhelmed.”
“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 me.”
“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.
Amin offered Schalit the choice of being interviewed in English or in his native Hebrew.
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 give.
Among his responses were indications that he would like to be involved in promoting better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians in the future.
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.
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