Reporters on the Job
• Sadr City Squalor: Staff writer Dan Murphy has reported from a number of Southeast Asia's poorest places. But rarely has he seen squalor like that in sections of Baghdad's Sadr City (this page).
Not generally squeamish, Dan was almost overcome in some areas, where the extreme summer heat, human waste, and garbage combined to create a smell he'd come across before only at open-air fish markets in Asia. The general garbage problem was the worst he'd ever seen, outside of refugee camps, and surprised him in a community as old as Sadr City.
"Even in very poor places, usually local community structures step in to keep garbage away from where the children are playing," he says. "But here, it's almost as if people's spirits were so broken under Saddam Hussein that there's not much initiative left."
• Do You Mind if I Report? Access to the hospital in Sadr City is controlled by the office of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Only those who have proper press credentials - a letter in Arabic giving a reporter's name and the name of his assigned "minder," a member of the Mahdi Army - are allowed to report inside Sadr City. Reporters who covered Iraq during Saddam Hussein's regime say that Mr. Sadr's followers are copying the same methods of their former enemy, Mr. Hussein.
"Every conversation, every interview, is under the careful watch of a Mahdi Army minder, and this is starting to irritate the Iraqi doctors at the hospital we visited," says staff writer Scott Baldauf. "The good news is that Mahdi Army fighters often don't know very much English, so doctors were able to tell us things in front of our minder in English that could have gotten them into trouble." (page 1).
- David Clark Scott