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Reporters on the Job

LOCAL SUPPORT: When the Monitor's Scott Baldauf showed up at the Afghan Border Security headquarters in Spin Boldak, southeast of Kandahar, he found he was in good company: A US Special Forces soldier was there, too - and much to Scott's surprise, was willing to talk if his name wasn't mentioned (Page 1).

"Soldiers of the Special Forces don't usually give interviews, so I took the opportunity to speak to him," Scott says.

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Scott and the soldier had shown up at the same time to receive the same thing: a copy of a recent anti-American leaflet. The leaflet directly threatened Afghans who help Americans. But the soldier's Afghan interpreter, who works regularly with the Special Forces, says he will keep helping the Americans. "This soldier here is risking his life to fight for my country," the interpreter said, pointing at the US soldier. "So for me, why shouldn't I risk my life to fight for my country?"

SILENT TREATMENT: When reporter Nicole Itano took her first trip to Zimbabwe in 2001, she thought it was the friendliest country in Africa. But this time, the atmosphere had totally changed (Page 7).

"Everyone feels they're being watched - people have been dragged off for even small criticisms, such as blaming Mugabe for gas shortages while waiting in line to fill their car," she says. "So people are very, very wary of speaking to you."

Still, Nicole found it was possible to build trust. A driver who took her and a colleague around for the day, at first would say nothing about political conditions. But after noting their stops to talk to government opponents, he opened up. "He wouldn't stop. He wanted to tell us all about what was happening to his country." That happened several times. "After I talked to people for a while, and they found out I was a journalist, they'd thank me for coming and tell me the world needed to know what was happening there."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

Cultural snapshot