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Reporters on the Job

October 9, 2008

In Haikou, China, 14 pregnant women competed in a body drawing and beauty contest. There was no word on which woman, or cartoon character, took home the honors.

Peng tong/Xinhua/AP

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Harassment in Darfur: As reporter Heba Aly traveled through rural Darfur, she saw villages under attack and people frustrated by government harassment . On her way out of Darfur, she got a taste of that harassment.

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"At the airport, a national security official took me to a back room. A handful of men asked me to empty my bag. They went through my notebooks, recorders, camera, wallet, phones, and my laptop," says Heba. "A woman took me to another room, body-searched me, and told me to wait. They wouldn't let me leave the room, make a phone call, or be present while they tore through my belongings."

Heba worried about losing all her work and whether the people she interviewed would be at risk.

"After about an hour and a half, they gave me my things and let me board the plane. They had deleted the pictures on my digital camera and the data on my flash memory sticks – 'because we felt like it,' they told me," she says.

UN employees and other journalists have told her that such treatment is not unusual. "Perhaps it is a show of strength, perhaps a warning," says Heba.

Iraqi Hospitality: When staff writer Scott Peterson visited a peacemaking Iraqi sheikh at his farm on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, he was presented with fresh dates cut from the multitude of palms as part of the current harvest. But the hospitality came with a request.

After the interview, the sheikh insisted that Scott "send the truth to American society" about "our suffering."

He was told that the US military must make sure that the 100,000-strong "Sons of Iraq" – armed civilian patrols – remain active and paid, or sectarian violence would return "much worse than 2006. Our hands are with the Americans to solve these problems."

"I promised him I would do what I could," says Scott. "And now I have."

David Clark Scott

World editor

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