Reporters on the Job

• INTERVIEW WITH A VIEW: Reporter Phil Gunson's interview with Venezuelan military officers planning the overthrow of President Hugo Chávez (page 7) was held at a location he could not disclose. But it was not exactly hidden.

When Phil arrived, he was told to remove the batteries from his cellphone because they said that those could be disguised microphones. He sat down across from the officers, who had black tape over their military nameplates to conceal their identities. On the glass table between them was a ceremonial military sword, a national guard beret, and a Bible. The officers made note of the Bible during the interview, saying that they thought God was helping them to oust President Chávez. (Incidentally, Chávez has also says that God is on his side).

But all the cloak-and-dagger secrecy seemed funny to Phil, because of where the interview was conducted: On a balcony clearly visible to anyone in the surrounding area.

• CALLED TO PRAYER BY COPS: The Monitor's Scott Peterson had a front-row seat to a heated discussion about Saudi Arabia's religious police, known as the Muttawain. He started the debate by telling a group of Western-educated young Saudis that an American analyst had called the police "a kinder, gentler Taliban." Later, on the way into a Saudi shopping mall, Scott saw the police in action for himself.

"At the top of an escalator, several long-bearded, short-trousered Muttawain were asking people to turn around and go back to the mosque: The shops were closing to respect prayer time," Scott says.

The scene reminded him of seeing armed Taliban enforcing prayer time in Kabul, stopping cars and forcing people into a nearby mosque. Though this case was not at all as severe, "a Saudi friend (in today's story, page 1) muttered his unhappiness with the rule," Scott says, "but just shrugged his shoulders."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot
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