Reporters on the Job

NOTHING TO REPORT HERE: The Monitor's Robert Marquand says that the past two press conferences at China's Foreign Ministry have been the scene of much stonewalling and frustration (this page).

"At one briefing attended by foreign correspondents, the first question was about SARS. The ministry spokesman stopped, before answering, and asked: 'How many other reporters have questions about SARS?' Nine hands shot up. The spokesman had each reporter read his question. Then, he read a statement on SARS as the answer to all their questions. That was followed by a stream of more questions about SARS. His containment plan wasn't working very well," notes Bob.

Many of the foreign correspondents in Beijing are unusually angry about the lack of official information, says Bob. "We're used to getting the runaround on North Korea or Dick Cheney's arrival date. But as one reporter told me, his wife keeps asking him if their children are safe. We don't know how bad it is here."

SHARING WITH SPECIAL FORCES: Yesterday the Monitor's Cameron Barr stumbled across some US Special Forces soldiers in northern Iraq. As the story he contributed to notes (page 9), they didn't have much to do. "They were pretty laid back," Cameron says, "and they were as eager - in a low-key, Special Forces sort of way - for information from us as we were for details about them. I have to say, they got the better end of the deal. They didn't tell us a thing, but we briefed them about world opinion on the war, the results of a recent US-Kurdish operation against Islamist militants, and other less weighty topics. They were so starved for information that I asked if they had a shortwave radio. The guy who appeared to be the commander said he had one but couldn't raise any English news. So I gave him some BBC frequencies."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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