Reporters on the Job

No Female Reporters Allowed: In five years of working in the Arab world, staff writer Jill Carroll says that she's never had any problem doing her job because she's a woman as far as she knows. But today's story about temporary marriages in Egypt (see story) proved an exception.

"Secret, temporary marriages among young people are taboo. It took an enormous amount of effort to find someone who had been in one of these relationships who was willing to talk about it for publication," says Jill. But her interpreter, Ahmed, found a young man willing to tell his story – but only to a man.

"We told him I was a Westerner and discussing marriage and sex aren't new or embarrassing topics to me," says Jill. "We told him I had interviewed Islamic militants and people who had just lived through horribly traumatic events. Nothing could shock me. But he was embarrassed, and his temporary marriage arrangement wasn't 'respectable.' No female reporter. No way."

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So Ahmed took a list of questions from Jill and traveled to Alexandria, several hours from Cairo by train, to do the interview. "He brought back an important element of the story that I could not get alone," says Jill.

Private Security: Reporters in Iraq often hear stories about security contractors who are "trigger happy." In 2004, staff writer Dan Murphy was doing an interview in Baghdad, in the offices of a pro-democracy group working there. Suddenly, three shots were heard. Dan and the official he was interviewing went outside to find an unarmed Iraqi civilian dead outside the front gate. Moments later, a UN official called to cancel his meeting with the pro-democracy group. "The UN official's security team had apparently pulled up and, for some reason, saw this Iraqi as a threat and shot him. There was never any investigation into the incident," says Dan. (See story.)

– David Clark Scott
World editor

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