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February 10, 2011

Courageous Journalism Allows Us to Get the Real Story form Egypt

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Shahira Amin

Imagine that one day you're watching CNN and a breaking news story comes on saying that Diane Sawyer, anchor of ABC's World News with Diane Sawyer, has suddenly quit. 

In an interview, Sawyer says the reason she quit was because ABC was demanding, via the White House, that she read a story at the beginning of every newscast that says citizens are rioting in the streets of New York and the National Guard must be called in to restore order.

The problem is the streets of New York are quiet. Or as quiet as they ever are, and Sawyer knows for a fact that there are no riots. So instead of reading a story that she knows is not true, she quit.

That scenario actually happened last week, except it didn't happen in the United States; it happened in Egypt. And the famous anchorwoman in question was not Diane Sawyer of ABC but Shahira Amin of the Egyptian state owned broadcast network, Nile Television.

In a column for Businessweek.com, "Death Is Small Price to Pay for Egyptian Freedom," Amin explains why she did it:

I quit my job on Egypt’s English-language satellite channel (part of state television) last Thursday for what I considered to be its biased coverage in favor of the regime. Angered by my inability to tell the story as it is because of media censorship, I walked out determined not to be part of the regime’s propaganda machine.

Here she is in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper:

Amin wasn't the only journalist fed up with restrictions of the press. Time.com interviewed Amin and fellow journalist Soha Ennakkash. Ennakkash explains why she walked off the job:

I felt ashamed before, because I was talking to people onscreen, and there was a pact that 'you can trust me.'  Now I feel free.

Both women are now being hailed as heroes among the anti-government protesters now in their 17th day calling for the ouster of the Mubarak government. Both women have also spent time in Tahrir Square, adding their voices to their fellow Egyptians.

In a week when we Americans watched as pro-government protesters used Anderson Cooper's head like a grey-haired, speed bag,  ABC's reporter Brian Harman was threatened with being beheaded, Christiane Amanpour and her crew had to do some fast talking to get past angry mobs on their way to an exclusive interview with Hosni Mubarak, and countless other unnamed and less famous Egyptian journalists disappeared off the streets into secret police jails -- their conditions unknown, it's a little hard to complain about what we don't like about our own imperfect press here in the U.S.

As Kim Conte at The Stir wrote:

Back in the United States, some people may think it ridiculous that Cooper -- and other journalists across the political spectrum who are covering the Cairo crisis from the trenches -- put themselves in harm's way during such a dangerous time. To those people, I ask you to consider this: How else are we supposed to get the whole story?

And that's the bottom line. We wouldn't know anything about the history being made in Egypt right now if it weren't for women like Shahira Amin, Soha Ennakkash and all the other international journalists putting themselves in the line of fire for the story.

Related Links:


Twitter Links:

  • Tweets from Tahrir Square by Anjali Kamat, a reporter for Democracy Now!:  @anjucomet
  • Tweets from award winning columnist Mona Eltahawy@monaeltahaw


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