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Sultan Munadi: second class treatment?

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Rajan Datar | 10:58 UK time, Friday, 18 September 2009

sultanmunadi_250.jpg

Are some people on a news mission in danger zones more equal than others?

That's the claim from some Afghan journalists who are bitter about what they regard as second-class treatment of their colleagues after the tragic death of translator/fixer Sultan Munadi (pictured).

He was killed during a NATO raid on a house in Kunduz province in which he and New York Times correspondent Stephen Farrell were held hostage last week. Two civilians and a British soldier were also killed in the rescue mission.

Fact: Sultan is not the first Afghan fixer to lose his life. Fact: many more local "host" journalists and translators have lost their lives than foreign correspondents from the big networks. Fact: according to the International Federation of Journalists more than 1100 journalists and media staff worldwide have been killed in the last 12 years. And the fact that Sultan's body was left behind by the NATO special forces hasn't exactly discouraged disabused Afghan journalists from believing that their lives are essentially cheaper than Westerners'.

On this week's Over To You we talk to the experienced BBC foreign correspondent David Loyn who offers an honest and fascinating perspective of life on the frontline and in particular the relationship between fixer and Western reporter. What is clear from talking to him and the IFJ is that there exists a unique bond of inter-dependency in life- threatening circumstances where both parties are protective over each other but one has far better safety training and a far stronger support system than the other.

Mind you, what has not suffered, even after incidents like this, is the common passion amongst all journalists in war scenarios to question the military and government line and to take risks to seek out the truth.

Perhaps a glimpse of a future where all correspondents have equal standing comes out of our other main report on this week's programme. This was in response to a listener query as to why African correspondents in situ are sometimes overlooked by the Bush House newsroom when broadcasting for the English language network, in favour of "big hitters" from the main bureaux. There was agreement from Jonathan Chapman, newsgathering assignments editor for the World Service, and Joseph Warungu, editor of Focus on Africa and Network Africa, to work more closely together to ensure that African service reporters on the ground take part in a wider range of news coverage on the World Service in the future, without undermining the value of an independent perspective from a seasoned correspondent "parachuted in ".

I'd be very interested to learn what you value most in a World Service foreign correspondent. Local knowledge and expertise? Authoritative reporting? A fresh but measured viewpoint from outside the fray? A beautiful turn of phrase that encapsulates and clarifies a complex conflict?

Or none of those things?

Rajan Datar is the Presenter of Over To You.


Over To You is your chance to have your say about the BBC World Service and its programmes. It airs at 10:40am GMT (11:40am BST) every Saturday.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    A beautiful turn of phrase that encapsulates and clarifies a complex conflict. Reporting that captures the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and feelings of the reporter in the environment. Reporting that captures those same feelings in the people encountered.

 

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