By Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: Shahira Amin, deputy head of the state-owned English television channel, Nile TV, resigned Thursday in what describes as a “spur of the moment decision” after she heard the protesters in Tahrir Square chanting on her way to the Egyptian Radio and Television Union building.
“I can’t be a mouth-piece of this regime with what’s going on, there are people out there sacrificing their lives, if I do what they want me to do and be part of this propaganda machine I will be betraying them,” Amin told Daily News Egypt.
“The fact is that history is being made, I can’t, as a credible journalist, have my hands tied and prevented from covering what’s going in our backyard,” she explained, adding that it was “suffocating.”
Amin described the youth as inspirational. “They did something my generation didn’t do so we have to support them all the way.”
“I walked away with a clear conscience … no longer scared,” she said.
On Jan. 25, the first day of protests, Amin read on the air the Minister of Interior’s press statement that pointed fingers at the Muslim Brotherhood.
“It was a wake-up call… I never lied, how could I say that?” she said.
She then left for a four-day conference in London for Euro-Med journalists during which internet access was blocked in Egypt so she started a campaign along with her colleagues against it. “The black out of access of information is a total violation of basic human rights,” she noted.
“I was dreading going back on air and being a part of this wrong-doing,” Amin said, referring to the coverage of pro-Mubarak rallies that took place on Wednesday.
Another journalist, Ethar El Katatney, who does segments on Nile TV voluntarily, chose to stay out of state-owned television during the current events, even though she was scheduled for Jan. 25, 28 and 30.
“[During the events of] Tunisia for two entire weeks we didn’t mention it… so I knew that the coverage [of the current events in Egypt] would be what the channel wants to portray,” she explained.
El Katatney said that channel officials told her to come in during the events to give the impression that the well-educated youth are against these protests. “I knew what their line would be [in the commentary] so I said I’ll be back when it’s over.”
“People accept bias in state media but it’s ridiculous now because there is so much footage elsewhere, irrefutable evidence and yet all calls and guests are all pro-Mubarak so it’s not believable,” she said.
Criticism shrouded the reappointment of Anas El-Fiqqi as the Minister of Information despite the state media’s coverage of the events last week.
“He is helping orchestrate this propaganda and he came [back] for this campaign,” said Amin, who refused to cover the last legislative elections for Nile TV.
“However, I don’t want to wrong the person because we’ve been [living] in repression under this regime,” she added, noting the constant fear media people experience.
“Hopefully we are embarking on a new era of Egyptian media,” said Amin.
“It’s a policy, it’s a way of dealing [with events], I don’t see this changing even if a new information minister comes, by cutting the internet connection we have shown the world that information is not a priority neither is freedom of expression,” said El Katatney.
Claudio Cordone, senior director at Amnesty International, said on Thursday, “The Egyptian authorities appear to be attempting to suppress the wave of popular protest that has swept the country by targeting those reporting on it, including human rights activists, journalists and others.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based advocacy organization, also said late Thursday it had recorded 24 detentions, 21 assaults and five instances of equipment having been seized in the past 24 hours.