Reporters on the Job

Complicated campaign: Visiting political offices in Iraq is a good way to gauge how violence has affected the political transition, says the Monitor's Dan Murphy.

Monday, Dan started out by visiting the Baghdad offices for militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a number of whose supporters are candidates. "On the wall were pictures of three militia members with captions saying they were 'martyred' by the US military," says Dan.

He then headed to the office of the Iraqi Communist Party, where, in addition to a hammer and sickle and a portrait of Lenin on the wall, there were two pictures of men recently killed by insurgents. And when Dan went to see the head of another electoral list, the man was ushering out party members from the troubled northern city of Mosul. One had just been released from a hostage ordeal with insurgents and was reluctant to be publicly involved with the party anymore. "Most Iraqis would like a functioning democracy, but many are being driven from the process by fear," says Dan.

Where am I? Traveling to Medan, Indonesia, after being in the hard-hit city of Banda Aceh was a head-spinner for correspondent Eric Unmacht. "One minute I was in the midst of all the devastation in Banda Aceh - and just an hour or so later, after an Indonesian military flight, I was in Medan eating a good meal."

Eric had been staying in a family's house with five other journalists. "We paid about $35 a night for a mattress on the floor and a bathroom with a squat toilet," he says.

And morning started early. "The call to prayer came right at 5 a.m. and continued for three hours. There was no sleep after that," Eric says.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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