Shahira Amin, the Egyptian journalist who interviewed Gilad Shalit moments after his release, rejects the criticism - especially from Israel - about the nature and length of their interview on Tuesday morning.
Talking to Haaretz, Amin wanted to send a message to Israelis: "I heard the criticism, but I think it is incorrect. I'm a journalist, and any journalist would want to conduct an interview that would be aired all over the world."
Amin shed light on what happened behind the scenes: "I talked to the Egyptian information minister and he coordinated the interview with the Egyptian intelligence agency. When I reached the Rafah crossing, I wasn't certain that it would really take place."
The initial interview was in English, Amin explained, but she had to stop the interview after the fifth question: "He [Shalit] was exhausted and spoke in a very low voice, so we took a break. He took a drink of water and I asked him if he wished to continue in Hebrew. He agreed and we continued."
Amin added that she had to stop the interview several times because Shalit felt uncomfortable: "I really identified with him, he's the age of my children, and I held his hands a few times to calm him down before we continued."
The journalist categorically rejected the notion that Shalit was forced to be interviewed: "It's true that he was brought in by armed Hamas men, but in the room itself there were only Egyptian intelligence people. They didn't intervene, and neither did the Hamas men. I say this with complete authority and responsibility: I asked Gilad if he was willing to be interviewed and he said he was. If he'd answered that he didn't, I wouldn't have conducted the interview. He seemed pale and exhausted, it's true, but at the same time he seemed happy that he was going home, and gave good answers. Personally I would have preferred the interview to be in English, without the translator, but Gilad preferred to speak in Hebrew."
The interview was aired unedited, and that's why it seemed so long, Amin said, insisting that her questions about his physical situation and feelings were inevitable - as was the question about Egyptian mediation: "For five years Mubarak made promises and nothing happened, and now, eight months after his removal, things started moving and resulted in a deal, and I believe the government and the military council are due credit."
Amin said she wrote the questions herself and that no one influenced their nature, or threatened her or Shalit: "On the contrary, at a certain point there were too many people in the room and that disturbed Gilad, so we asked them to leave and then continued the interview."
Amin is appreciated throughout the Arab World after resigning from her post as deputy CEO of Nile TV when the Mubarak regime tried to influence the satellite station's coverage of the revolution in Egypt. She now works as a freelance journalist and for CNN.
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