Reporters on the Job

Sudan Barriers: Monitor staffer Abraham McLaughlin says that during his last trip to Sudan, he got an idea of how hard it is for relief workers to work there. The movement of aid groups - and reporters - into the sprawling refugee camps around Khartoum is tightly controlled. "I waited two days for a permit to go to a camp - and then was told I'd have to go with a government minder. Instead, I found an aid group that pulled some strings in a government ministry to get me a camp pass. Still, once we got inside, they didn't want me to leave their fenced compound, lest the camp police start asking questions.

"Experts and aid workers I talked to for Thursday's story (this page) were pretty surprised that UN official Mukesh Kapila had used such strong language - including 'ethnic cleansing' - to describe the situation in Darfur," says Abe. "He's known for being outspoken. But the risk of saying such things is that the government will become even less willing to allow aid groups into Darfur. Aid officials are clearly afraid of the government. One staffer insisted on speaking to me only on his mobile phone. 'If we talk on a land line, I have to be very careful about what I say.' "

• Al Qaeda and Cricket: Reporter Owais Tohid is in Wana, Pakistan, the nearest city to the area where Pakistani security forces have been fighting suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants for more than a week. As Owais goes about his job, everyone he talks to - from shopkeepers to top officials - is focused on the same two subjects: the latest attacks (page 4) and the status of the five one-day cricket matches between India and Pakistan - the first between the two countries in 14 years. "My guesthouse lobby is packed with young boys and Pakistani scouts. They switch back and forth between the news of the fighting and the status of the match."

India won the last match Wednesday, taking the series 3 to 2.

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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