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Reporters on the job

The Roads Less Traveled

Getting to Nablus to inspect the damage from Israel's F-16 attacks was no problem on Saturday: the Israeli-controlled highways through the West Bank were empty of traffic, because it was the Jewish Sabbath. A general strike eliminated most traffic on Palestinian roads. So the Monitor's Cameron Barr and other journalists made great time on the drive from Jerusalem.

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Getting out was another matter. Israeli troops declared a suitcase found on the main highway a "suspicious object" and stopped all traffic while they awaited a bomb-disposal unit.

After a half-hour of waiting, a Palestinian suggested an alternate route along unpaved roads and led a convoy of journalists on a bumpy but effective detour. In the West Bank, Cameron says, where there is a will there is a way.

POLITICS OF WAR REPORTING

Reporters in Macedonia, like in other places where ethnic conflicts occur, must constantly be aware of who is on which side. If you say "thank you" in Macedonian to an Albanian shopkeeper, or vice versa, you risk at least a dirty look and possibly violence. It is safest, Arie Farnam finds, to just use English.

And the logistics can be just as tricky. Arie's ethnic-Albanian interpreter, who just three months ago was open and jovial with Macedonian Slavs, is now afraid to speak to them. After introducing Arie and a photographer to a family in the Albanian quarter, he drove them to a meeting at the Parliament, but let them off a block away because he was afraid to approach the Macedonian guards.

Arie likes to stay at a small family hotel in the Old Turkish quarter of Skopje. The area is mostly Albanian, but the hotel owner is Macedonian. In order to make outgoing calls, she has to sit at the reception desk with the chain-smoking Macedonian clerk. Several times on this trip, he stared at her wide-eyed, while she chatted in English to people with Albanian names. Once he pulled her near and whispered, "Bring no problems here, OK?"

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor


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