Reporters on the Job

Language of War: Correspondent Sam Dagher was covering an Iraqi Army recruiting drive Sunday that was assisted by the US military (see story). Sam has been covering the war in Iraq, off and on, for about four years. In a briefing by US officers, he found that some of his military lingo was out of date. "The US military is famous for their abbreviations. A few years ago, the term for the insurgents was AIF - Anti-Iraqi Forces. But that's outdated now," says Sam.

Now, sectarian deaths are known as EJKs, for extrajudicial killings. Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army is known as JAM - Jaish al-Mahdi. Al Qaeda anti-Iraqi forces are know as AQZAI, "but nobody seemed to know what the Z was for," says Sam. Perhaps the fallen leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?

And there are now Sunni "protectionists," who are protecting their neighborhood, and Sunni "rejectionists," who reject the Iraqi government.

Dancing Around Lèse-majesté: Writing a story about Thailand's strict lèse-majesté laws – public statements that offend the royal family – meant that correspondent Simon Montlake had to tread carefully (see story). "It's often hard to find out exactly what the offensive statement was, since Thai media are loath to report in detail on investigations," says Simon. Last week, when a Swiss man was convicted of insulting the monarch, it attracted foreign media attention, to the dismay of court officials.

"A BBC colleague went to attend the trial opening but was told when he arrived that it had been postponed. It hadn't, but the Thai officials wanted the press to leave the court building," he says. The hearing was held in secret.

"When I visited Sulak Sivaraksa, a combative veteran of lèse-majesté cases (he's been tried twice before), he gave me a copy of the latest article to get him in trouble," says Simon. "It was from his quarterly magazine, and it was in English. This, he told me with a gleeful smile, put the police in a tough position. To bring a case against him would require translating the article into Thai. But to do so would be to potentially commit lèse-majesté, as a previous police chief had once been accused of doing."

David Clark Scott
World Editor

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