Reporters on the Job

HURRY UP AND WAIT: Journalists, like soldiers, often spend a lot of time waiting, especially when they're traveling with a national leader. But the Monitor's Howard LaFranchi tried to show some understanding of the difficulties and delays unique to Colombia's president during his first trip to the conflict-zone of Putumayo (see story). And Howard had plenty of opportunities to hone his patience. First, he spent two hours sitting in a military transport plane with other journalists before taking off from Bogota. "A huge kidnapping of more than 200 people by paramilitaries the day before had colleagues wondering if the trip might be cancelled," Howard says. "But then word filtered around that the people kidnapped had been freed. And we took off."

Then, a car bomb exploded in Medellin, raising old fears of resurgent urban terrorism in Colombia - and questions about how long President Andreas Pastrana would stay in Putumayo. "A downpour most of Friday morning didn't help, and we ended up sitting around for several hours, waiting," Howard says. "The president finally arrived from emergency security meetings in Bogota for part of the planned events in Putumayo, and then left early for Medellin. An end-of-visit press conference was cancelled."

BEHIND BARS: The jailing of the prominent Egyptian sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim is more than a blow to democracy or free speech (see story page 7), says reporter Sarah Gauch. She personally lost a key source. "I've interviewed him many times over the past 12 years. On Islamic militant issues, he was the best source in the country. He was always highly respected in the Egyptian intellectual community," she says. "It was disconcerting to see him in a court cage."


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