American journalists threatened by protesters

New York, October 10, 2001—Susan Taylor Martin, a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, and Jamie Francis, a photographer for the same paper, were threatened and harassed by protesters angered by the recent U.S.-led bombing campaign in neighboring Afghanistan.

The two were reporting in Sakot, a town in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, when they encountered a large crowd of anti-American demonstrators. Francis was going to take photographs, but several police officers rushed toward the journalists and advised them to leave the area immediately.

Their guide led them to a nearby building, which turned out to be a mosque housing a madrassa, an Islamic seminary. Francis started taking pictures through a window of the demonstrators outside, and Martin began interviewing the men gathering around them.

In an account she wrote about the incident for the St. Petersburg Times, Martin said the group became larger and angrier, with masses of demonstrators coming up from the street and blocking the stairs to the exit.

One man Martin interviewed said, “I request you to leave this place. People are emotional and may do you some harm.” Another shouted “Get out!” repeatedly in her face. Someone else started ominously quizzing the pair about where they were from and for what media outlets they work.

Several armed police officers eventually pushed their way to the crowd and ushered Martin, Francis, and their guide out of the mosque, advising them to run to safety. The police took them to the office of the chief constable of Malakand Agency, in North West Frontier Province, who said, half-joking, “For you, the situation was dangerous because any person with white skin we think is Bush.”

Martin credited police with “rescuing us from the mob and perhaps saving our lives.”