Reporters on the Job

Someday, a tourist site? Correspondent Fred Weir visited North Ossetia with a group of foreign journalists invited by the local parliament. They were allowed to visit the mountainous region that is normally closed to foreigners. "Accompanied by special security, we went right up to the Georgian border, which is normally closed," Fred says. "If peace ever comes to this region, the Caucasus mountains could become the next great tourist destination. There are plunging streams, and cascading waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers, and potentially marvelous ski slopes. There are also great archaeological sites, including thousand-year-old war towers and fortresses.

Who's watching me? Trying to gather information and write about the Internet in China, while inside China's borders, can be a difficult and frustrating thing, says correspondent Kathleen McLaughlin. "Many of the sites I want to access, including just basic contact information, are blocked. Those include the site of Reporters Without Borders."

Kathleen says that it's easy to see how China's blocking and filtering could wear down all but the most devoted of "netizens" in China.

"The whole thing instills a bit of paranoia," she says. "Is the Chinese government reading my e-mails? How do they select the people, mail, and surfing activity they watch? If they are watching me, did they read this story about the Chinese Internet before it ever appeared in print?"

One source told Kathleen that the Chinese government does not deny that it has 30,000 Internet police. They may or may not really have that many, he told her, but pointed out that people who believe they are being watched are far less likely to step out of bounds.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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