Afghan reporter arrested for talking to the Taliban
An Afghan reporter was arrested, apparently because of his contacts with Taliban representatives. For local reporters, covering the war is a minefield.
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While their language skills and backgrounds allow local reporters to blend in and go places that would be suicidal for Western reporters, they occupy an uneasy space between the US military and local insurgents, interacting with both sides, but trusted by neither. They often live in their own communities and are easily identified as working with foreign organizations. Over the years, local reporters in Afghanistan and Iraq have told me that knocks on the door in the middle of the night are a fact of life.Skip to next paragraph
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Naikzad has been detained before. The AP reports that in 2008 he was held for two days by Afghan authorities after taking pictures of a Taliban execution of two women. He said then that the Taliban had summoned him to witness a trial and the he didn't know anyone would be killed.
Such close proximity to violent events often casts suspicion on local reporters in the eyes of the US and other foreign forces. In Iraq, commanders would often complain that local cameramen were on the scene of attacks on US forces "too soon" – implying that they had advance knowledge of those attacks.
With propaganda videos as much a tool in the modern militant's arsenal as IEDs or Ak-47s, such suspicions make a certain amount of sense. But it's also the case that reporters sometimes have advance knowledge, but don't necessarily know precisely what's going to happen. For some, refusing an insurgent summons can be more dangerous than heeding it.
In 2004, a cameraman in Fallujah for an Arab-language satellite television station explained to the Monitor how it works: A militant called him, told him they'd just attacked a US humvee, and told him to get footage. When he arrived, he was arrested by US forces. As the Monitor reported at the time: "After he was let go, he dispatched the tape to Baghdad. But his editors decided not to use the film. That evening, the reporter was paid a threatening visit by local insurgents complaining that their attack didn't make the news."
I once experienced the phenomenon myself. After a suicide car bomb attack blew out the window of the old Monitor bureau in Baghdad, I was on the street taking pictures, wearing Iraqi clothes and the mustache I favored when in country. When US military police arrived at the scene, one of them tried to knock my camera from my hands, only backing off when he heard me speaking in American-accented English.
"Sorry ... but you were looking all durga durga there," he said, using a then-popular phrase for Iraqis among US soldiers borrowed from the movie "Team America: World Police." He said photos were "real moneymakers for insurgents." As a reporter, I was annoyed, but I also understood where the soldier was coming from. The vast majority of the time reporters are legit. Sometimes they're not. Is there a sure-fire way to tell the difference? No.
(This story was edited after posting to correct the date of Massoud's murder.)