Reporters on the Job

Shayne Robinson
Miss Landmine: Augusta Urica, who lost part of her leg, won Angola’s Miss Landmine Survivor beauty contest Wednesday. Contestants all wore artificial limbs. Angola’s civil war ended six years ago, but land mines still claim some 300 victims a year. The contest is held to raise awareness of the problem.

Into the Jungle: This week, Sibylla Brodzinsky did what reporters often do: she chased down a rumor. But as she went deeper down the rabbit hole, doubts crept in about the wisdom of the hunt.

She'd heard that Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician who has been held hostage for six years, might be receiving treatment in a health clinic in a remote Colombia village (see story). She decided to check it out.

The village, however, was in an area known to be controlled by leftist rebels, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Sibylla invited a couple of colleagues along – the safety-in-numbers principle. After all, she didn't want to become a FARC hostage herself.

But at the last minute, her colleagues couldn't get a seat on the plane. "There's only one flight a day to this location. I decided to go now, rather than wait. The rumors sounded fascinating," she says. "But I wasn't exactly excited about the choice."

In the main town, nearest to the village, it was calm. No one was willing to say much, but that's not unusual in guerrilla territory. Sibylla wasn't concerned until about half way to the village of El Capricho.

"The driver and I were passing wide open spaces of ranches and coca plantations, when the jungle suddenly closed in on both sides of the road," she says.

Just the sort of place where rebels might set up a road block or might appear in the middle of the road.

"I wrote down my name and the publications I worked for on a piece of paper. I told the driver, 'if something happens, they'll probably let you go. Give this piece of paper to the local media. They'll get the word out.' It was the first time I've felt that way in a long time."

Sibylla relaxed after she got to Capricho. "I don't want to exaggerate the risk, but it's always good to be prepared," she says.

David Clark Scott

World editor

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