Reporters on the Job

BEFORE YOU GO: Working as a journalist in Iraq, especially in wartime, is a constant lesson in having little control over one's fate, says the Monitor's Scott Peterson.

These days, the Ministry of Information determines the hotels - three at the moment - at which journalists can stay. Satellite phones and TV gear are tightly controlled and are permitted to be used only at the ministry's press center. Last week, a Boston Globe correspondent was kicked out for using his phone at his hotel. "Such control even followed me to the desert border post in the middle of the night," says Scott, who crossed into Jordan Wednesday night. Officials there required a fresh AIDS test, even though Scott was leaving, after a month, and had test results he had taken in Jordan. "They insisted: No blood, no exit," Scott says. In the end - at a cost of $182 for the final humiliation at the hands of Iraqi officialdom - Scott found clean needles in his medical kit, and gave blood.

HOW DO YOU SAY THAT? The Monitor's Cameron Barr has developed an unfortunate skill in northern Iraq: firing people. He has worked with or evaluated more than 15 interpreters during six weeks in the region, and has had to let several go.

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"We ask a lot of our interpreters here - fluent Arabic, English, and Kurdish, and a willingness to help cover a war. It hasn't been easy to find the right person," he explains. On Wednesday, he and a colleague sealed a deal with the best interpreter they have encountered so far.

Other journalists found themselves in trouble on the eve of war. Drivers and interpreters with whom they had worked for weeks decided they couldn't leave their families or take on more risks.

"So far," says Cameron, "our guys have stayed with us and I am grateful."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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