Egypt journalist defends Shalit interview


An Egyptian journalist under fire for interviewing Gilad Shalit as Hamas handed him to Egypt denied on Wednesday that the Israeli soldier had been pressured to give the interview.

Shahira Amin, celebrated in Egypt for quitting her job as a state television reporter during the uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February, conducted Tuesday’s interview for the state-owned Nile Television.

An Israeli official accused her of violating “all the basic ethical rules of journalism” by interviewing Shalit, just moments after he had spent five years in captivity and was being released at the start of a prisoner exchange.

But Amin told an Egyptian chat show that she asked Shalit to do the interview and he consented.

The interview was conducted on no-man’s land in the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, she said. Shalit was accompanied by Hamas members and Egyptian intelligence agents.

“He was tired. I sat with him at first for two minutes and said: ‘I understand you want to see your parents as soon as possible and don’t want to give interviews,’” she said.

“But the world wants to know how you are doing so don’t deprive us of some words,” she said. “If he had refused, we wouldn’t have pressured him.”

The Egyptian Gazette, a government-owned English daily, reported on its website on Wednesday that the head of Egypt’s state television also said that no one forced Shalit to conduct the interview.

Wearing a chequered shirt and smiling at times, Shalit took short breaths during the interview as he thanked all those who worked for his release and spoke of his fears after being captured by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid into Israel.

“I can’t describe how I felt, but I felt that I was about to face some very difficult times,” he told Amin, who asked the interpreter to rush because she felt Shalit “looks tired.”

Shalit was a 19-year-old corporal on duty along the Gaza border when he was captured on June 25, 2006 by militants from three Gaza-based groups, including Hamas.

He was freed in exchange for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.