Since September 11, US and European reporters have been clustered in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Quetta andalong the border of Afghanistan. But the high costs and risks of being there mean most US reporters in the arearepresent a network or news agency. Living expenses for Westerners in Pakistan have been pushed extremely high: hotelroom rates have gone up three times since September 11th in Islamabad.
But entering Afghanistan is even more expensive. News organizations say they were asked to pay $2,000 per person forthe Taliban-conducted bus tour of Kandahar, to witness firsthand the destruction wrought by continued US-ledairstrikes. To get into Feyzabad, stronghold of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, takes a $300 helicopter ride.Space is so booked that some reporters have hired cars for hundreds of dollars, only to be stopped by armed gangs onthe road who can demand an additional "toll fee" of as much as $ 4,000.
Those journalists who can afford to get to Afghanistan are carefully monitored by the Taliban-and by the USgovernment.
Anthony Collings began working as a reporter for CNN shortly after the network was started in 1980. While onassignment for CNN Collings was captured and held at gunpoint in Lebanon by Syrian and Palestinian gunmen who thoughthe was an Israeli spy. During his journalistic careers Collings served as Washington correspondent and Rome bureauchief for the network, as well as bureau chief for Newsweek in London and Bonn.
His book ??Words Of Fire: Independent Journalists Who Challenge Dictators, Drug Lords, And Other Enemies Of A FreePress tells of other self-employed and under-resourced independent journalists who go to "ground zero" to get astory even if it defies the silencing rules of the criminal networks, the war, or the government. Collings arguesthat those journalists who are unfettered to the power structures are often the only ones who break through the newsbarrier.
- Anthony Collings, author of ??Words Of Fire: Independent Journalists Who Challenge Dictators, Drug Lords,And Other Enemies Of A Free Press.