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Reporters on the Job

September 21, 2001



A GUIDE TO NOWHERE: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf and photographer Robert Harbison planned to go to a main border crossing point in Pakistan for today's story about refugees flooding out of Afghanistan (page 1). But most of the day was an exercise in frustration.

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"After a two-hour drive from Islamabad, we waited for two hours in Peshawar for permission from the government to go to the border. Finally we got it, and picked up our armed guard," says Scott. To travel in Pakistan's autonomous tribal areas, which are fairly lawless, journalists are required to have an escort - in this case a man with an AK-47. Pakistan authorities organized a caravan of six or seven carloads of journalists. Scott and Bob, their guard, interpreter, and driver were wedged into a small Daewoo taxi that kept bottoming out under the weight. "We were barely doing 25 m.p.h. and the rest of the caravan left us behind," says Scott. But about 15 minutes into the journey, Scott discovered that the caravan wasn't going to be allowed into the border town of Torkham. Rather, they were being taken to another town about five miles away from the border. "Our escort refused to allow us to go to the border. But he told us there would be 'a nice view' of Torkham in in the distance. Well, you don't argue with a guy with an AK-47."

They turned around and went back to Peshawar, planning to talk to new arrivals at an Afghan refugee camp. That, too, was now off limits to journalists. But Scott found a "fixer," a local who could get into the camp. The fixer found two new arrivals, and brought them out for interviews."

AN ESCORT IN YEMEN: The Monitor's Scott Peterson found that reporting in Yemen is also becoming difficult to do without an escort. The Ministry of Information has new rules that require foreign correspondents to be accompanied all the time for "security." A German diplomat was kidnapped in recent months. Scott refused the "offer." But he found he was being tailed, and government agents were knocking on doors where he was conducting interviews and asking, "Where is the foreigner?"

Scott went to the ministry to complain, and discuss how to work out a mutually satisfactory arrangement. "They argued that they might lose their jobs if I were kidnapped," says Scott. They agreed with Scott that if someone were to kidnap him, it would probably happen while he was out in the streets. After more negotiations, Scott agreed to hire one hotel taxi for the entire day, and have a Yemeni official accompany him. But his escort would have to stay in the car during Scott's interviews.

- David Clark Scott

World editor

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