Reporters on the Job
STOPPED IN TEHRAN: It was only a brief incident, but Colin Barraclough was reminded of how journalists must be alert to their surroundings. For the story about Iran's views on Afghanistan (this page), he was interviewing a political writer via his mobile phone on a street near Iran's foreign ministry in downtown Tehran. "As I turned to go, two men in dirty cotton shirts with a few days' beard approached from behind, tapped me on the shoulder, and offered to shake my hand. I thought they were beggars or hustlers of some kind, and was about to leave. Then I saw one had a walkie-talkie and I realized they were security police."
They asked Colin for his press card and passport and searched his bag, looking for a camera. "It turned out I had been leaning against the wall of a Revolutionary Guards base, and their security people had become convinced I was somehow photographing it. They asked at least five times where my camera was," he says. But Colin didn't have a camera. He protested that he had the proper press credentials, just having come from the foreign ministry. "It fell on deaf ears. They asked me to follow them, while they consulted a senior officer." After a 10-minute wait, presumably to check his credentials, they "handed back my documents without a word, and waved me away."
A LESSON IN TOLERANCe: When Monitor photographer Bob Harbison arrived with an interpreter at a madrassah in Pabbi, Pakistan, the reception was chilly. "We were taken to an empty room, took our shoes off, and sat down on cushions. The room quickly filled with angry students, some of the Afghan fighters," says Bob. "They said that if America attacked Afghanistan, they would declare a holy war. I tried to distract them by asking them about the madrassah. They kept haranguing me, saying that Islam was a tolerant religion, but if America attacked...." They calmed down when Bob agreed that Islam was tolerant and he believed in tolerance, too. Later, he was allowed to take photos, and was introduced to the headmaster, who had gone to school with the Taliban leader Mullah Omar (page 1).
- David Clark Scott
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