Reporters on the Job

Taboo Subjects: "Christians and Muslims are brothers." It's a common refrain in the Arab world, says correspondent Annia Ciezadlo. "Sometimes people mean it; sometimes they don't." While reporting today's story she went to several Baghdad churches and asked people if Christians were leaving Iraq because of persecution (page 7). Again, and again, she heard the refrain. But "most people were too afraid to be credible; their denials were too vigorous, too categorical," says Annia.

"One day, I was talking to an Iraqi priest, who gave me the same denials when a young man who had been listening interrupted. 'Why don't you tell her about what's in the newspaper, about the two children who were killed just because they were Christians?'"

"Stop it!" shouted the priest. "We don't want to bring up this subject!"

The newspaper was Bahra, an As- sryian weekly (Bahra means "the light" in Syriac, an ancient language still spoken by many Iraqi Christians). Most Iraqi Christians know about Aziz and Raneen, the two murdered children. But speaking about it was taboo - until June 20, when the Bahra editor, William Warda, published pictures of the children.

Annia visited Warda to see why he agonized for four months before printing the pictures. "If we publish this story, it will hurt us," Mr. Warda told Annia. "If we don't publish it, it will hurt us. Not publishing it means we are hiding our suffering. Publishing it means it could become propaganda for those who want to frighten our people and make them leave Iraq."

Warda tried to balance the photos with an editorial against "emigration fever." He still got angry phone calls accusing him of aiding the terrorists. But he also got cautious thanks from Christians who wanted the world to know how bad things were for them.

"I thought to myself many times, 'If I don't publish them, it's a sin,'" he told her. "For me, as a journalist, it's a sin."

Annia told Warda that he had done the right thing.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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