Egyptian TV news correspondent Amany al-Khayat is well known for her professional ability and her direct style of news reporting. She has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and diplomas in political science and art appreciation. Watani was granted a special interview.
When did you decide to work in the media?
I’ve been writing in the international press since I was in college, and then I worked on a Kuwaiti art newspaper and translated articles. At that point I discovered that the picture had become the means of communication, since today’s youth are more interested in watching the news than reading it. So I decided to join the visual media.
How were you chosen to be a correspondent?
I was chosen by Samiha Dahroug, president of the Nile TV news channel, at the end of 2003. This in itself was a challenge, since it was one woman electing another woman for a challenging post, especially in that it was the first time for a woman to hold such a position. To be quite honest it wasn’t easy.
Tell us about the world of the correspondent
The TV correspondent is exactly like a journalist. Both have to create and follow a news event and its repercussions and background, always searching for whatever is new. The ultimate goal of any correspondent is to present the true reality without falsification or unnecessary upheaval.
The Egyptian correspondent is often accused of focusing on trivial events rather than the major ones, is this true?
This is partly true. I suggest that clear scientific criteria as well as personal interviews should be implemented in the choice of correspondents to ensure their efficiency and skill in handling news events. A good correspondent should possess some political and geographical awareness and a minimum level of general knowledge.
Tell us about the oddest situations you faced so far
I have faced many strange situations, but the one that comes to mind now was when I was covering the events surrounding the release of the Israeli nuclear ‘spy’ Mordecai Vanuanu, who was convicted of spilling the beans about the Israeli nuclear reactor and was imprisoned for 12 years. The TV crew and I were threatened by some Israeli rightists, who started pelting us with rotten eggs. I had to continue broadcasting covered in egg and suffocating with the smell.
What are the qualities of a good correspondent?
A good correspondent should be able to choose the components of the issue he or she is dealing with efficiently. He or she should be able to handle being in front of the camera. Also a good correspondent must be serious, responsible, objective and unbiased. Most importantly, he or she must be able to look beyond and read deeper.
How do you see the freedom of expression in Egypt today? And where do you find it?
I would say that it is definitely a start but we need more, because real freedom has no ceiling. There are several programmes that reflect this freedom such as the political talk show Wighat Nazar (Point of view) presented by Abdel-Latif al-Meniawi and Itkalim (Speak up) by Lamees al-Hadidi.
What about the famous talk show al-Bait Baitak?
It had a strong start, but I believe that it has accomplished its goal and is now outdated. I think that programmes shouldn’t be allowed to continue running endlessly so as not to lose their appeal.
Are there red lines in Egyptian television reporting?
There are a few red lines such as the ongoing talk about the government, also discussions of the tensions relating to sectarian strife. I admire the way in which Pope Shenouda III handles comments relating to such issues.
Are there any safety procedures that you have to comply with as a correspondent?
There are several safety measures such as bullet-proof jackets and helmets when covering a story, as well as life insurance.
What are your wishes for the Egyptian media?
I would like the Egyptian media to focus on the present and leave behind the old dogmatic mentality. Also more time and effort should be spent on the core rather than the trimmings. I think that more focus should be put on the intellect when choosing programme presenters in television. I also wish the syndicate law would change and we could be recognised as part of the Journalists’ Syndicate. As for myself, I would like to host a talk show on national television that deals with daily events.
Do you have other interests?
I am very interested in voluntary development work. This has added to my experience as a news reporter in terms of freedom and self-confidence.