Reporters on the Job
UNINVITED GUEST: Reporter Nicholas Blanford was a little wary of entering Ghajar, a village that now straddles the border between Lebanon and Israel (page 7). Israel is concerned that Ghajar may become a staging area for attacks by Islamic militants. "It was a story I wanted to cover, but I was also concerned that my presence there would cause the local people problems. It's one thing to report on trouble, it's another to be the source of the trouble in the first place," says Nick. UN peacekeepers accompanied him and other journalists to the edge of the village in an armored personnel carrier, in case the Israeli army chose that day to carry out its threat to target visitors from Lebanon entering Ghajar.
"I later learned that the Israeli army went on high alert when I was in the village, although the blame also falls on the shoulders of the seven Hizbullah fighters who visited the northern end of Ghajar at the same time. I didn't see them, but the UN told me afterwards that they scanned the area through their binoculars for a few minutes, then departed.
"The mayor of Ghajar, Hussein Khatib, invited me to drink coffee in his house. But I concluded that I had caused them enough trouble and it was probably better to leave."
ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR: Sometimes what's left out of a story can be as telling as what's left in. The Monitor's Robert Marquand was introduced by Unit 731 museum officials to two Chinese men with connections to the Japanese germ warfare camp (page 1). But they wanted to be paid for their interviews, and Bob refused. "I consider it unethical and unprofessional. It can taint the quality of information you get," he says.
After some persistence, Bob was later introduced to Sun Chuan Ben, a Chinese roofer who lived nearby and had worked at the camp during World War II. Bob quizzed him for 2 1/2 hours about his experience. While they were at the camp, a small group of Japanese tourists arrived. "They said they were from a small island in Japan where the poison gas had been produced that was used at Unit 731. They were there to see if what they'd heard about the camp was true. Mr. Sun Chuan Ben was hesitant about meeting them. He told me that the Japanese would be ashamed if they met him," says Bob. But after some initial tension, "there was a moment of face-to-face reconciliation between two nations that was remarkable to witness," he says. He considered using the incident in the story, but the group's arrival was so propitious that Bob wondered if it had been orchestrated. He couldn't confirm the authenticity of the group in time for his filing deadline.
- David Clark Scott
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