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Egyptian Journalist To Present Debut Lecture For New Center

Oct. 24, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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Shahira AminShahira Amin, an independent journalist and activist in Egypt, will share with the Bearkat and Huntsville communities her experiences and thoughts about the dramatic changes that are currently taking place in the Middle East and North Africa on Monday (Oct 29).

The lecture, hosted by Sam Houston State University’s new Global Center for Journalism and Democracy, will begin at 6 p.m. in the James and Nancy Gaertner Performing Arts Center Concert Hall.

Kelli Arena, executive director for the GCJD and Dan Rather Endowed Chair of Journalism at SHSU, said Amin perfectly represents the center’s purpose as a woman who is “truly representative of the many brave people in Egypt who have fought for democracy and freedom of the press.” The GCJD was established this semester to provide resources, on the ground training, and online courses to journalists all over the world.

Amin, who currently writes for Egypt’s Index on Censorship, Daily News Egypt and Ria Novosti, was deputy head of the state-owned Nile TV and a lead anchor/correspondent but quit during last year's mass uprising in protest at her station's coverage of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square.

“Shahira started reporting on the Arab Spring but the government didn’t like what she had to say. She was committed to telling the truth and very publicly walked out. That in itself was a dangerous act of defiance,” Arena said.

“(Then) when the women were protesting in the streets, the military began performing virginity tests,” Arena said. “The government said it was to protect the military against accusations of rape. It was a signal to these women to know their place and get the hell home; to not dare think they were going to be empowered, that they are going to have a voice. They were trying to intimidate them.

“Shahira goes out and breaks the story,” Arena continued. “She’s had a bulls-eye painted on her for a while, but she refuses to stop speaking out.”

Amin’s work garnered recognition by numerous international agencies, and she has received such awards as the 2011 Homes of the Year Award from Goteburg University in Sweden, the Juan Anguita Award from Cordoba University in Spain, and the Catalyst For Change Award from the American University in Cairo. Amin has also been recognized by UNICEF (2009) for her efforts to improve the status of women and children and by the National Council for Childhood in her native Egypt for "helping bring into effect the law criminalizing female genital mutilation” (2008). Amin is also a longtime contributor to CNNI, reporting from Cairo and other North African capitals for Inside Africa.

Arena said she feels students and the community could benefit from hearing from someone who has such an intimate knowledge of what’s going on in Egypt and the region as the revolution there continues.

“Egypt is a really important strategic partner with the United States. We are witnessing a tremendous shift in power in the region and we, as Americans, have to care about this because it has everything to do with democracy and foreign policy,” she said. “We are interested in seeing democracy flourish, but democracy is messy; it takes a long time for it to take hold. A lot of people don’t really understand that, and we should.”

The danger journalists such as Amin are placing themselves in by speaking out is something that people in America may be surprised to learn about but should definitely be aware of, according to Arena.

“It’s easy to sit in New York or Washington and write about what you think should be happening in Egypt, but she’s not speaking out from outside the country like a lot of people are,” Arena said. “Shahira is in Egypt, she is very vulnerable; she’s right in the pit and she just refuses to be silent.

“I think that is, for our center, exactly the kind of courage we want to promote that is displayed by journalists around the world. People just don’t understand that every day journalists risk their lives to bring truth to others,” she continued. “The center is committed to bringing those brave people the resources and training to do their jobs better. Shahira is a perfect pick for our first speaker, she’s very powerful.”

While in Huntsville, Amin will tour one of the prison facilities, conduct a taped interview with Arena that will be broadcast on Cable Channel 7 and will answer questions from global media classes at SHSU.

Her presentation that evening is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Arena at kac044@shsu.edu.



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