War Correspondent Speaks About Female Journalists

Carlotta Gall is the veteran Kabul-based war correspondent with The New York Times who reports on both Afghanistan and western Pakistan.

I caught up with her last week while working on a piece for an upcoming article for Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists.

ET: What types of challenges have you faced as a reporter in Afghanistan and Pakistan simply because you are a woman?

“Only twice I think when madrassas or certain mullahs refused to be interviewed by a woman or allow a woman to enter their premises. Once I wanted to join a colleague and interview a mullah from the TNSM in Malakand and I had to sit in the car outside while he took my tape recorder in. Another madrassah in Quetta [Pakistan] said women were not allowed inside so the local reporter went in and asked the question for me. The same problem existed during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan but I have not had that problem since 2001 since the current government is more relaxed.”

ET: Do women journalists get more access to people and parts of society because of their gender?

“Women can go into the female quarters of households. In conservative traditional areas men who are not relatives are not allowed in these areas. There are ways around this for men to interview or hear women’s views, but it is much easier as a woman. Often though language is a problem since the women often only speak local dialects, whereas the men are better educated and can speak Urdu or even English.”

ET: You’ve covered conflict for years. What is different about the experience of covering what has been happening in Afghanistan?

“Conflict is conflict wherever you are. Kidnapping has become a serious threat, as it was in the Caucasus in the 1990s. The Al Qaeda element in the insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan has made it particularly dangerous for non-Muslim journalists, or anyone working for western news outlets.”

ET: If you could go back and do it again [your career], would you do anything differently?

“No.”

ET: Of all the stories out there, why cover Afghanistan and Pakistan?

“It’s a good story and a developing story. An important issue for the United States and the west, and the people or the region deserve better.”

ET: What insights about humanity have you gained from reporting in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

“Same as anywhere, civilians suffer the most in war.”

ET: Do women bring some kind of unique insight to covering conflict?

“No—compassion, stamina, whatever you need for journalism is sexless.”

ET: Where do you see the war in Afghanistan going in the next couple of years?

“On and on.”

In addition to being a contributing editor for The Epoch Times, Genevieve Long writes the Media and Foreign Policy blog for the Foreign Policy Association, where this piece was first published.

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Chinese Netizen Journalists Face Restrictions

by Genevieve Long for The Foreign Policy Association

In a country like China that is already so restrictive of press freedoms, it’s surprising that the grip of control could be tightened any further. Yet, according to a new press release from the non-governmental organization Freedom House, that’s exactly what is happening.

Freedom House says it is “dismayed by new Chinese Internet restrictions,” which include stricter rules about video sharing websites. The measure follows closely on the heels of a gruesome video that was circulated last week which contained graphic footage of alleged persecution of Tibetans. The video, which was widely circulated, could have been linked to Chinese authorities blocking YouTube.

Of particular concern to Freedom House is a section of the new restrictions which reads:
“The regulations specifically mention videos from “netizen reporters,” who have played a critical role in informing Chinese citizens about police brutality, the melamine scandal, and the lethal consequences of corruption surrounding the Sichuan earthquake.”

Netizen is defined by the dictionary as a blending of the two words citizen and net. So a netizen reporter, under China’s repressive laws governing the dissemination of information and control of information, could be a crucial link between the public and information. Even in the face of the facts that a netizen reporter has no media affiliation or fact-checker or editor, they would still be potentially doing what has been referred to in new media jargon as “acts of journalism”.

The gathering and dissemination of information under the current circumstances in China, even without editorial content or control, could be critical information nonetheless.
Mark Twain once said, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort ‘em as much as you please.” The Chinese people deserve the opportunity to at least have access to the facts, and can then decide what to do with them.

In addition to being a contributing editor for The Epoch Times, Genevieve Long writes the Media and Foreign Policy blog  for the Foreign Policy Association, where this piece was first published.