Reporters on the Job

Safer at a Distance: While tension is fairly high in Baghdad, reporter Dan Murphy realized how easy he's got it as a print reporter (this page). He attended a going-away party for several photographers this past week. "They were leaving in part because it's become so difficult and dangerous to get pictures of the action," he says. "One women had thousands of dollars in equipment stolen after stopping on the road to photograph an attack on US forces. Another complained that some average Iraqis are now hostile these days when the lens is pointed in their direction. A third photographer, who's only been in Iraq for a month, displayed a small wound on his arm, where a bullet had grazed him. He's been embedded with the US Marines in Al Anbar Province.

"As bad as it gets, I can always get someone on the phone to comment for a story. But without the pictures themselves, these guys have nothing," says Dan.

Controlling Access? A month ago, when the Israeli army assassinated Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin, reporter Ben Lynfield and several other journalists working were barred from going to Gaza by the Israeli military on the grounds that they had Israeli residency (though not citizenship, in Ben's case) and this was for their protection. This left the army with a monopoly of information coming out of Gaza to the Israeli public.

Ben, and any other Israeli resident who enters Gaza, always signs a form that the army is not responsible for his safety. "We sign despite reservations, so that we can go in and see what is actually going on there. When I was interviewed about all this on state-run Israel Radio recently, I called attention to the harm to people's right to know in the US, Britain, and Israel when journalists are barred from Gaza. I received a less than sympathetic response from Prime Minister Sharon's spokesman, Government Press Office director Daniel Seaman, who called me immediately after the interview and called me a 'bad journalist' among other things. But the Israeli army also called and said I could enter Gaza.

"I thought the problem had been solved. Last night, however, the Israeli army reimposed the ban - for the same reason. Hence the Jerusalem and not the Gaza City byline in today's story. In the afternoon, they changed their minds but by then it was too late to get there and make the deadline, so we relied instead on a freelancer, Mohammed Ali."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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