Reporters on the Job

• AN EMERGING POLITICIAN: Reporter Ben Lynfield first took notice of the rising Israeli politician Amram Mitzna (this page) when he read a newspaper article during the first intifada profiling him as Israel's West Bank commander. "I remember it well because he said that he was having trouble sleeping at night when he thought about some of the things the army was doing. That was something that seemed remarkably introspective," says Ben.

"So I was looking forward to meeting him and gaining his perspective on an action that recently reverberated in Israel: the killing of Gaza civilians by an F-16 during the assassination of Hamas leader Salah Shehade. But at a weekly memorial meeting – open to the press this time – he refused to talk to reporters about the event. I tried to persuade him, saying that ignoring invited journalists 'is not respectable.' He did not budge, replying with a one-liner appropriate for an aspiring politician: 'We don't have to be respectable all the time.' "

• REVISING HISTORY: Since 1997, Jonathan Watts has been reporting in Tokyo on the case of the Japanese germ warfare Unit 731 (page 7). "I've seen a parade of elderly Chinese villagers offering horrendous and macabre details of what went on during World War II," he says.

While in Japan, Jonathan has also covered the claims of Korean "comfort women," and British and American prisoners of war, all roughly the same age.

As he watched the tears streaming down the faces of the Chinese plaintiffs yesterday, he was struck by how these villagers had clung to hopes of winning this case for five years.

"At this late stage of their life, they wanted some recognition of and compensation for what happened to them half a century ago. Their lawyers and leaders said that just getting the information out was a victory. But that's not what I saw on their faces."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot
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