Reporters on the Job

A BETTER VIEW: When the US and Britain began the air assault on Afghanistan Sunday, the Monitor's Scott Peterson was about 30 miles north of Kabul, in Northern Alliance-held territory. "We couldn't see much from our hamlet, so we asked if we could get a better view," says Scott. The alliance has kept journalists on a tight leash, he says, "erring on the side of caution." So he was surprised by how risky the trip became.

"We jumped into a convoy of six or seven cars. Normally, everyone keeps their lights off, but as we approached a narrow bridge, some turned their lights on." That alerted the Taliban to their presence. Scott and other journalists climbed to the lookout point, with a view toward Kabul. He could see the tracer fire of antiaircraft guns. Then the Taliban forces lobbed a shell toward the journalists.

"We scattered, sprinting back toward the cars," says Scott. Three shells were fired, the closest coming within 100 yards. Scott jumped into the back of a pickup truck. Asked: "You pay [for the ride]?" he agreed. Once out of range, the driver demanded $50 for the 10-minute lift. "Forget it," said Scott, angry at the outrageous fee. He pulled out a wad of Afghani bills. But the driver was insulted and turned away. Scott says that prices are soaring for all journalist services. The going rate for the drive from the Panjshir Valley to Feyzabad: $2,000, from $500 a week ago. "I'd rather walk," he says.

WAVING AN OSAMA FLAG: In the Pakistan border cities of Peshawar and Quetta, Osama bin Laden apparently has the edge in the battle for hearts and minds (page 1). Yesterday, foreign correspondents were locked in their hotel in Quetta "for their own safety," says reporter Phil Smucker. Pro-Taliban demonstrators tried to break down the hotel gates. In Peshawar, Phil ran into some journalists who had been beaten by demonstrators. "I bought an Osama T-shirt from a street vendor, in case things got ugly," Phil says. "I figured I could use it as a white flag."

- David Clark Scott

World editor

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