Reporters on the Job

Reporters Without Sources: Finding people willing to talk publicly to a reporter in Baghdad can be challenging. Many Iraqis have learned the hard way that the wrong people can take notice of the conversation and make any displeasure known.

"Everyone is afraid of 'tashkees,' which is Arabic for the verb 'to identify, ' " says correspondent Sam Dagher (see story). "They fear that people out there might read the article and be able to gather enough personal information to lead them to where the interviewee lives or works."

Sam notes that there are "101" reasons that Baghdadis can give for not talking to him. "There is fear of those who are out to get you because of your sect, those who are looking to make a quick buck from kidnapping you for ransom, or those who might be offended by what you might say to a reporter," he says, adding that photos are out of the question.

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It doesn't help if you point out that your paper doesn't circulate in Iraq. " 'Every-one has the Internet,' is the immediate response," Sam says, who nonetheless was able to find people willing to chat for a few minutes.

Changed Landscape: Staff writer Ilene R. Prusher traveled to Hebron for today's story and was struck by the changes (see story). "I saw a place that I recall as a bustling market scene, but it has been divided and looks very sad," she says. "It was a place where a lot of produce and household goods had been sold. Now, it looks like a ghost town."

Ilene says that she and a colleague did get a warm reception from locals nonetheless. "Everywhere you go, people offer you something. The Israeli settlers were making lunch for their kids, so they offered us some veggie hot dogs. The Palestinians we met offered us some nice tea," she notes. "I figured that if I took something from both sides, I could maintain my neutrality while also getting fed on a busy reporting day."

– Amelia Newcomb

Deputy world editor

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