As I was glued to the screen Tuesday, I watched floods of emotions overwhelming Palestinians who were eagerly waiting for their beloved released prisoners from Israeli jails and on the other side Israelis, in a weird combination, awaiting Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was taken hostage five years ago by Hamas militants and kept in kept in captivity ever since.
Amidst the excitement, well-known Egyptian TV journalist Shahira Amin suddenly appeared interviewing Shalit, with so much excitement in her eyes about this great chance to be the first journalist to interview the long awaited hostage.
Regardless how appropriate or professional Amin's questions to Shalit were, I thought that she had did a good job and that the interview was scoop that any other journalist would not hesitate to take. However, no sooner had the interview was aired, rage among the Israeli citizens and others erupted over the "unethical, immoral and insensitive act" Amin did by interviewing Shalit, as some of the commentators described the interview on Facebook on twitter.
I could understand any argument about the quality of the questions asked during the intense interview but to be honest, I still cannot comprehend why Amin was attacked personally.
As a journalist, I immediately put myself in her shoes and wondered whether I would take this opportunity if I had been offered? Of course I would!
Just to make sure that I am properly understood -- and not to put myself in the life of fire -- I want to give an example that happened to me few years ago when I interviewed a Spaniard mother who lost her son in the Madrid terrorist attacks.
The interview coincided with the 5th anniversary of the bombings and I remember asking her tough questions. I had to stop the interview several times to give her chance to wipe tears off her cheeks, but that did not stop me from continuing the interview simply because I believed that I had a responsibility to deliver the woman's message to the rest of the world about her tragedy.
Within the same context, we all remember the 9/11 events and am sure many of us, including the victims themselves, still go to YouTube to look for footage documenting that tragic event in order to watch the firsthand shots taken on the spot of victims while they were still bleeding, running in shock and horrified unaware of what was going on at the moment.
Was that insensitive of those who took those shots? Was it immoral or unethical of the media to just position their cameras and start taking shots; while the World Trade Center's Twin Towers were falling down and while people were screaming, crying in shock?
First reactions are always honest. The way Amin was attacked by the Israeli media and others has no justification.
Her interview was purely professional, and in journalism, there are always moments where we, journalists, suffer and tolerate more than victims themselves. In wars, for example, journalists and photographers watch people get killed and they sometimes see parts of human bodies scattered in the streets, smashed heads, yet, they would be willing to be take photos or report live for their mediums. Does that make them inhumane or savages or insensible? They are only doing their jobs by documenting events for the record.
I know Amin well and I have no doubts about her professionalism or journalistic skills. I had the chance to talk to her about the interview shortly after it was aired and I could feel from the way she was describing the interview how she was touched and pity she felt for the released Israeli prisoner.
She assured me that before the interview she'd had a short talk with Shalit and asked him if he wished not to be interviewed. He assured her it was fine.
From my point of view, Amin was offered an opportunity to have a scoop and give the five year detained prisoner a window to speak to an Arab audience via a prominent Egyptian media outlet. She took it and made use of it like any other journalist would have done.