Reporters on the Job
• Not a Guitar Teacher: Even in less tense times, Burma's junta doesn't welcome journalists. Reporter Christopher Johnson didn't have any success in getting a journalist or a tourist visa at the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. "The place looked like a costume party as reporters arrived in droves posing as backpackers with Lonely Planet guidebooks," he says. "Unable to convince them I was a guitar teacher ("here, look at my callouses"), I opted to try the border crossing of Kawthaung, 30 minutes by boat from Ranong, Thailand.
Ten years ago, Burmese immigration officers, in a hut over the water, checked for names in a book, titled in English, "The Black List." But this time, the friendly officers, in a new complex on land, gave me a 14-day visa, permitting me to go anywhere "within five kilometers of this office."
In reality, that meant four young immigration officers led Chris around, followed by barefoot street kids acting as "bodyguards." "A 14-hour rainstorm the next day allowed me to sneak out solo, until one of the street kids spotted me using my mobile phone in a restaurant," he says. "Hearing me tell a TV producer overseas the contents of my illegal interviews (see story), the kid looked at me and said in surprising English, 'You said you were a teacher.' "
• Parking Scofflaw: When staff writer Peter Ford went to interview Li Heping, a Chinese lawyer who had been beaten up by policemen, he had to search for a while to find a spot in the lawyer's office parking lot.
Eventually Peter found one, next to a police patrol car where a couple of guys were reading a newspaper and looking bored. The two cops, he later learned, were the detail that has been shadowing Mr. Li for months (see story). "When I finished the interview and began to drive away, I was suddenly stopped by someone shouting and waving their hands at me," says Peter. "For a moment I thought it was the police. Actually it was the parking lot attendant who wanted me to pay him 50 cents."
– David Clark Scott