Reporters on the job

NARCO PHOTOGRAPHER: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf and photographer Bob Harbison had some tense moments while reporting today's story on the Afghan opium trade (page 6). While in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Scott says, "One drug dealer pulled a knife on Bob when he tried to take a picture of a drug buy. He thought Bob was a cop. Fortunately, our intrepid driver, Ejaz, was faster at translating than the drug dealer was with the knife.

"But we eventually had to bug out of that drug den on the muddy banks of a sewer next to a mud-hut slum, when the drug users started asking for money." In leaving, they had to hop over streams of sewage. "High schools ought to give tours of this place as an incentive to keep off drugs," Scott adds.

RESCUED IN IRAN: Reporters often dislike it when undercover cops spy on them while they work. But during two recent public events in Iran (page 10), Colin Barraclough says that "for the first time, I was happy to see Iran's security forces."

He was just checking into his hotel in Zahedan, Iran, when he heard shouting in the street. He dropped his bags and ran outside. A crowd was marching past, protesting the US attacks on Afghanistan. "For the first hour, it was calm," he says. But as he turned away, another group appeared, marching toward him. "When they spotted me, my translator, and an American colleague, the protesters broke into a run - coming toward us," Colin says.

"We turned and started walking away as calmly as we could. The worst thing to do would be to run. We entered a scruffy park, with some of them following. Others started throwing stones at us. I noticed then how many of the 'demonstrators' were local undercover security agents. They turned and started pushing the crowd away from us. I spotted a police car, and we ran behind it. The police herded them away, down another street," he says. Colin discovered later that the same crowd had clashed with police outside the Pakistani Embassy, and a protester had been killed by the police.

Later that day, he went to a large Sunni mosque for a Friday prayer service. The first two hours went fine. "People I spoke with were angry about the US policies, but lucid and calm," says Colin. The sermon became inflammatory, decrying the evils of the West. "As they filed out, who should they come across but me, a blue-eyed, white faced 'devil' from the West." Again, Colin was chased by the crowd. "The police showed up and pushed us into a courtyard behind a gate. But the crowd tried to scale the gate and threw stones at us. Finally, the police charged in and put us in a car and took us to safety."

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