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Reporters on the Job

ON THE BORDERLINE: Reporter Catherine Elton went to the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica for today's story about a wall being built between the two nations (this page).

While on the Costa Rican side, she asked an immigration officer if she could interview some of the Nicaraguans waiting in line to be deported. While he was checking with his supervisor, she struck up a conversation with one of the Nicaraguans. "I wasn't doing an interview. I didn't have my notebook out. We were just small-talking," she says. But he spotted her and came roaring out of an office and told her to leave. She went back to her car, got her camera to at least get a couple of pictures of the Nicaraguans standing in line. "That made him even more furious. He sent three security guys to throw me out. I asked what happened to Costa Rica's famous freedom of speech? They replied that reporters, particularly from Nicaragua, blow immigration issues out of proportion."

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Catherine has lived in New Mexico and was struck by the similarity between comments by Costa Ricans and those by Americans living near the Mexican border. "They say the same things: 'There's too many of them [Nicaraguans/Mexicans]. They're lazy. They bring their health problems here,' " says Catherine. "But you can also see that as Costa Rican incomes rise, Nicaraguans are filling the seasonal jobs that Costa Ricans won't take."

SURPRISING BEHAVIOR: When Mike Theodoulou was in Iran in May, the atmosphere on the streets was relatively relaxed. Young people said the basij, a militia that helps to police public behavior and the dress code, were far less intrusive since President Khatami came to power in 1997. Some couples were discreetly dating in public, which was also a relatively new development. So today's story about a new crackdown this month (this page), with public floggings, "comes as much as a surprise to me as it must to many young people in Tehran, who had hoped for greater personal freedoms."

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor