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Reporters on the Job

Journalistic Joy Ride: When staff writer Abraham McLaughlin arrived in Bunia, in eastern Congo, the folks in the United Nations peacekeepers' press office offered him a ride with the Moroccan battalion that patrols the town at night.

Abe didn't have to be invited twice.

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"I donned my blue helmet (to fit in with the real peacekeepers) and blue flak jacket and jumped aboard the armored-personnel carrier. We bumped along in the dark, with diesel fumes belching in my face. Five of the six guys were carrying rifles, and the sixth was manning a big machine gun," he says.

As recently as three months ago, Bunia was a dangerous place at night. Militias roamed the streets - and often attacked the peacekeepers. But the UN has gotten tougher lately.

Abe realized how calm the city had become (page 7) when the patrol's commander asked him where he wanted to go. "Anywhere you want," said the jovial Moroccan officer. "But I'm not in charge - you are," Abe protested, pointing to the officer's stars on his shoulders.

"The longer we roamed," says Abe, "the more I felt like the patrol was really just meant to show the flag, not to ward off militias. The denouement of the evening came at around 10 p.m. when the officer signaled to the driver to pull over. We stopped and sipped sweet tea under the star-filled African sky."

Protect your Eyes: Israeli settlers have been friendly to the media, particularly foreign correspondents, says staff writer Ilene Prusher (this page). But some of the protesters see the media as left-wing critics. "One photographer had a paint bomb thrown at her, damaging her cameras. Another was hit in the eyes with a chemical. A reporter advised me to put on my sunglasses. We just don't know what projectiles may be coming our way," she says.

David Clark Scott
World editor