Reporters on the Job

Who's Watching? Uzbeks say they sometimes feel they are being watched by plainclothes police. Staff writer Scott Peterson got a personal taste of this sensation during his visit to Uzbekistan to report on women participating as suicide bombers (page 1).

In one case, Scott was interviewing a woman whose two sons, nephew, and husband had been imprisoned. "She says she, too, can be picked up anytime, and that they are playing close attention," Scott says. Moments later the phone rang. "It was a city official summoning her to sign a document saying she wouldn't leave the house. She took off immediately, expecting the police to come at any moment."

On another occasion, Scott had just finished interviewing the son of a well-known Islamist in a sandwich cafe. The man left. Scott and his interpreter finished their lunch, and then hopped in their car. "A tan-colored Zhiguli car zoomed up alongside, and pulled very sharply in front of our car in a deliberate and threatening way," Scott says. The car slowed down again and again, forcing a game of cat and mouse, before Scott's driver was able to make a swift U-turn and get to a back road.

Uzbeks told Scott this is typical of the Interior Ministry's 7th Department, which conducts surveillance, among other things. In this case, the driver had most likely been keeping an eye on Scott's interviewee, and the road antics were meant as a warning - and a reminder - that Big Brother is watching.

Safer Without Dan: Staff writer Dan Murphy found it impossible to persuade either Al Jazeera or Al Arabiya to let him go out into the field with their reporters - a measure of how much danger they feel they're already in (page 1). "Their feeling was having an American-looking foreigner with their reporters would only put them in more danger."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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