Reporters on the Job

Rumormongers? Government spokesmen are often on good terms with the media. But staff writer Abraham McLaughlin got a different impression from Uganda's media liaison official.

" 'I'm the chief here, and I could have you arrested' - those were the first words I heard from Ugandan media official Robert Kabushenga in the pre-dawn darkness as a group of journalists gathered in a parking lot to go visit President Yoweri Museveni," says Abe. "The president was staying at his rural retreat - a four-hour ride from the capital. Mr. Kabushenga's intro was probably meant to be funny. But it was a strange way to introduce himself to the foreign press."

Several hours later, though, when Mr. Museveni greeted the journalists by calling them "rumormongers," Abe could see the antipathy toward the press came from the top.

"People here worry the government is becoming increasingly militarized - and unfriendly to the press, which is actually relatively free here, despite occasional verbal harassment," Abe notes.

Shrine Bombing: Staff writer Dan Murphy was meeting with US officials in Baghdad when news of the scale of the Shiite shrine bombing reached him. "In three years of covering Iraq, including assassinations and suicide bombings, I've never seen Iraqis this alarmed by any event," says Dan. "In Baghdad today, shops closed early. Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr's militia were roaming the streets - they've been invisible for months. There's a sense of everyone holding their breath.

"When 150 people are killed by a car bombing, it's horrible and leads to anger. But profane acts against the sacred are even harder for people to accept than profane acts against people," he says.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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