Reporters on the job

CROSSING A LINE: How serious are Northern Alliance militiamen about maintaining tight security at a checkpoint? The Monitor's Scott Peterson found out when he tried to get a closer look at peace talks between militia groups, about a mile away. He and a couple of colleagues tried to skirt a checkpoint south of Kabul by back tracking, then heading up across two ridges, out of eyesight of the guards.

At the limestone ridge line, they were stopped by another group of militiamen. The journalists kept going. "Click click. Off came the safety catches on their AK-47s," says Scott. It turns out the soldiers had spotted another pair of journalists in the valley below Scott, and were taking aim. He and his colleagues intervened to prevent their comrades from being used as target practice. They then persuaded the soldiers to radio their commander for approval to let the group proceed. They got permission, and Scott strode down the far side of the hill. But as the party crossed a barren desert valley, they eventually came into view of the first checkpoint.

The radio message of approval obviously had not made it there. Bullets whisted past, and the group dropped into the sand. Finally the shooting stopped, and after a wait, several militiamen came to "collect" them. The next morning, he heard that the militia commander had given orders - which he fortunately rescinded - to have the three journalist beaten for disobedience.

DRAWING A CROWD: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf says it's hard to hold a private interview in the streets of Jalalabad these days. At one point he struck up a conversation with a barber. "After a few minutes, I looked up, and there was a press of people at the window and others jammed in the doorway. They just wanted to see what the foreign journalists were doing," says Scott. "If you see a crowd of 50 to 100 people, there's a good chance that there's a journalist in the middle of the mob talking to one guy."

- David Clark Scott

World editor

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Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

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