Covering the New War

Read first-hand accounts by journalists covering the war in Afghanistan.

• December 21, 2001The New York Times reported that on December 20, Afghan tribal fighters detained three photojournalists working for U.S. news organizations. The journalists were detained for more than one hour, apparently at the behest of U.S. Special Operations forces in the Tora Bora area. The three photographers were David Guttenfelder of The Associated Press, Tyler Hicks, and Joao Silva, both of The New York Times. According to the Times report, U.S. troops in the area did not want their pictures taken, even though the Pentagon has openly discussed their presence. Memory cards containing images of the U.S. forces were confiscated from two digital cameras.

• December 10, 2001
–On December 8, Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the London daily Independent, was severely beaten by Afghan refugees in the village of Kila Abdullah in western Pakistan.

Fisk, his Independent colleague Justin Huggler, driver Amanullah, and translator Fayyaz Ahmed were driving past Kila Abdullah, near the Afghan border, when their car broke down. A large crowd gathered around the car and started throwing stones and hitting Huggler and Fisk. As the two reporters tried to board a bus, Fisk was dragged off, beaten, and kicked by about 60 men. The assailants were mostly Afghan refugees, according to Fisk

• December 6, 2001–Several news organizations have protested the Pentagon’s decision to refuse journalists access to soldiers injured by a misdirected American B-52 bomb north of Kandahar. Three U.S. special forces soldiers and five anti-Taliban Afghan fighters were killed by the bomb.

On December 5, journalists at a Marine base in southern Afghanistan were confined to a warehouse while injured soldiers were transferred to the base for treatment. That night, the journalists were pulled out of Afghanistan altogether.

The reporters, who entered the Marine base on November 25, were the first journalists allowed by the Pentagon to accompany U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They were from The Associated Press, The Baltimore Sun, CBS, CNN, Newsweek, The New York Times, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, Gannett, The Washington Post, and AP Television News. Under the terms of the arrangements made by the Pentagon, the journalists were required to pool their reports with other news media.

Jonathan Wolman, executive editor of The Associated Press, told the AP that defense department policy “allows for coverage of casualties, but it was subverted in this case.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged today that U.S. officials had “not handled the matter perfectly” and stated that “the media should have access to both the good and the bad in this effort.”

• December 3, 2001–CPJ welcomes the December 1 release of Ken Hechtman, a Canadian free-lance journalist whom Taliban authorities detained for four days in the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak. The Taliban had earlier denied responsibility for holding Hechtman, and suggested he had been kidnapped. Taliban official Mullah Aminullah said Saturday that officials had been investigating Hechtman on espionage charges, but were persuaded to release him after meeting with Canadian diplomats and Pakistani officials.

Prior to his detention, Hechtman had been filing regularly from the region for the weekly Montreal Mirror.

[Archive of Recent Developments]

By Joel Simon

New York, October 16, 2001–The September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., and the subsequent international response, have generated a media mobilization of unprecedented scale. Journalists covering this story face considerable risks as well as restrictions from governments around the world that have their own reasons to silence independent reporting.

CPJ will monitor these global developments and will focus its advocacy on ensuring that journalists covering the “war on terrorism” are able to work freely.

CPJ believes that journalists play a crucial role in reporting on conflict by providing the public and policy-makers with the information needed to understand events and make decisions. Journalists are especially critical because they are often the only civilians present on the field of battle.

At least one journalist was killed covering the World Trade Center attack. The body of free-lance photojournalist William Biggart was found in the rubble at ground zero on September 15. Biggart had rushed to the World Trade Center with his camera shortly after hearing about the attacks.

Most of New York City’s television stations had broadcast facilities on the top floors of the World Trade Center’s north tower. Several broadcast engineers are still missing. They include WCBS-TV engineers Isaias Rivera and Bob Pattison; WNBC-TV engineer William Steckman; WPIX-TV engineer Steve Jacobson; WABC-TV engineer Donald DiFranco; and WNET-TV engineer Rod Coppola.

With a military response now under way in Afghanistan, international journalists have massed in Pakistan, and the Central Asian republics that border Afghanistan. Most journalists entering Afghanistan do so with the help of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, traveling into rebel-held areas by helicopter from Dushanbe.

In the weeks after the September 11 attack, only a handful of foreign correspondent were able to report from Taliban-held territory. On September 28, Taliban authorities arrested a British reporter who crossed the border from Pakistan hidden beneath the all-encompassing burqa gown. Yvonne Ridley of London’s Sunday Express was held for 10 days in Jalalabad and Kabul and threatened with espionage charges. She was released on October 8. The following day, French reporter Michel Peyrard and two Pakistani guides were arrested when Peyrard also tried to enter the country under cover of a burqa. Taliban officials have accused the three men of espionage.

On October 13, the Taliban invited a group of international journalists to tour Koram, a village in eastern Afghanistan, that was reportedly damaged in US airstrikes. According to a report filed by CNN’s Nic Robertson, the group of international reporters have been able to report from the city of Jalalabab under the supervision of government minders. Meanwhile, international reporters based in neighboring Pakistan have reported a number of incidents, including physical attacks by protesters and government restrictions that prevented them from reporting freely. CPJ continues to monitor reporting conditions in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.

In the United States, CPJ is closely monitoring several anthrax cases reported at media outlets. In Boca Raton, Florida, on Friday, October 5, The Sun photo editor Robert Stevens died of inhalation anthrax. On October 12, news services reported that an NBC Nightly News employee had contracted cutaneous anthrax, which is rarely fatal. She is expected to recover fully.

On October 15, ABC News president David Westin announced that a seven-month-old infant who had visited ABC’s newsroom on September 28 had contracted cutaneous anthrax. The infant, who is the son of a producer for ABC News, is responding well to antibiotics.

At the same time, CPJ has noted with concern a number of incidents from around the world where officials suppressed critical coverage relating to the September 11 attacks. A free-lance cameraman working for The Associated Press in the West Bank City of Nablus was threatened, for example, after he filmed images of a group of Palestinians celebrating the September 11 attack.

In China, the media have been banned from expressing any opinion about the attacks. And in the United States, the State Department tried to censor a VOA broadcast that contained an interview with a Taliban official. Meanwhile U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell called on Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani to use his influence to rein in satellite channel Al-Jazeera’s news coverage, which the U.S. government apparently feels has been unbalanced and anti-American.

On October 10, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice phoned a group of U.S. television executives and asked them to use caution when airing pre-recorded messages from Osama bin Laden and his associates because of suspicion that the statements could contain instructions to terrorist cells. Rice did not explain the basis for the suspicion.

CPJ is also closely monitoring the U.S. Department of Defense as it develops guidelines for pool reporters (see below) who cover military operations.


Pentagon sets guidelines for pool reporting

By Frank Smyth

Washington, October 2, 2001–The U.S. Department of Defense has promised to provide journalists covering future military operations with the “best access possible” but warned that logistics could be difficult since military operations will be “all over the map.”

DOD officials said they have no plans to implement any form of censorship, but refused to rule out censorship as a possibility. When asked whether DOD would demand prior review of copy filed by pool reporters, a senior DOD official said, “I cannot guarantee that it won’t occur.”

In a September 28 meeting with bureau chiefs in Washington, D.C., Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson Victoria Clarke explained the Pentagon’s guidelines for pool reporting. Media pools will be noncompetitive, and each member of any specific pool will be required to share information with colleagues from other media. Pool reporters will also be required to “remain with the pool escort officers or assigned units” until the pool is officially disbanded.

The transcript of the meeting has been posted on the Internet.

DOD officials told CPJ that they would seek to preserve the security of operations and the safety of troops by ensuring that personnel who speak with journalists do not divulge classified information. All DOD sources will request that journalists withhold any information that could conceivably jeopardize either the security or safety of U.S. personnel or operations.

The guidelines for pool reporters covering a particularly sensitive military operation could include the submission of copy prior to publication. The review would be used to ensure that reports do not include information that could potentially violate operational security.

DOD officials stressed that the greatest obstacle to providing access for the press will be logistical, since many of the military actions are expected to be carried out by clandestine Special Forces detachments. “The operations may last hours, three days, or a week,” said one official.




Egypt: Al-Jazeera cameramen detained by security forces (March 8, 2002)

Afghanistan: CPJ concerned about Canadian journalist believed kidnapped (November 28, 2001)

Afghanistan: Swedish journalist killed by armed robbers in Taloqan (November 27, 2001)

Afghanistan: Taliban prisoners reportedly attack British journalist (November 26, 2001)

Afghanistan: ITN reporter wounded by shrapnel (November 26, 2001)

Afghanistan: Taliban expel foreign journalists (November 26, 2001)

Afghanistan: CPJ welcomes release of Japanese journalist (November 20, 2001)

Afghanistan: Four journalists killed (November 19, 2001)

Afghanistan: U.S. airstrike destroys Al-Jazeera office in Kabul (November 13, 2001)

Afghanistan: CPJ mourns three journalists killed on assignment (November 12, 2001)

Al-Jazeera reporter expelled by Northern Alliance (November 8, 2001)

Afghanistan: French journalist Peyrard released (November 5, 2001)

Afghanistan: Japanese journalist detained in Taliban territory (November 1, 2001)

Afghanistan: CPJ demands release of French journalist and Pakistani guides (October 16, 2001)

Afghanistan: Taliban charge three journalists with espionage (October 10, 2001)

Afghanistan: Taliban arrest French journalist and two Pakistani guides (October 9, 2001)

Afghanistan: British journalist freed (October 9, 2001)

Detained British journalist faces trial in Afghanistan (October 4, 2001)

Afghanistan: CPJ disturbed by Taliban accusations against jailed journalist (October 3, 2001)

Afghanistan: CPJ demands release of British journalist and colleagues (October 1, 2001)


Benin: Journalists arrested, newspaper censured, over bin Laden article (October 3, 2001)


China: Government cracks down on coverage of America’s newest conflict (October 2, 2001)


Indonesia: CPJ confirms attack on journalists covering anti-American protests (October 24, 2001)


Liberia: Radio host arrested for airing anti-American commentary (September 20, 2001)

Palestinian National Authority

Palestinian National Authority: CPJ concerned about ongoing restrictions on journalists (October 4, 2001)

Palestinian National Authority: CPJ protests harassment of journalists covering West Bank celebrations of U.S. terrorist attacks (September 18, 2001)


Pakistan: British reporter attacked by Afghan refugrees (December 10, 2001)

Pakistan: Government bars Indian journalists (October 30, 2001)

Pakistan: Authorities release French reporter Aziz Zemouri (October 16, 2001)

Pakistan: CPJ urges Pakistani authorities to release French journalist Aziz Zemouri (October 13, 2001)

Pakistan: American journalists threatened by protesters (October 10, 2001)

United States

United States: CPJ concerned about threatening incidents (October 13, 2001)

United States: CPJ dismayed by U.S. pressure against Arab satellite news channel (October 4, 2001)

United States: CPJ asks Pentagon to explain Al-Jazeera bombin (October 4, 2001)

United States: State Department pressures VOA to kill Taliban interview (September 27, 2001)

United States: Photojournalist among World Trade Center dead (September 21, 2001)



“Kandahar, Inside and Out,” by Mitch Potter, Toronto Star. — One of the best accounts of the trials and tribulations of reporting from post-war Afghanistan. Feb. 10, 2002.

Library of Congress country studies
. –Get in-depth historical, political, economic, and social information about countries in the region.

University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. — Get regional, country, and city maps.

Yahoo! full coverage. — Get news from wires, papers, magazines, radio, tv, and other web sites.

Washington File.
— Get all U.S. government statements relating to international affairs.

Institute for War and Peace Reporting


BBC — South Asia


PBS Newshour background on Afghanistan

News about Afghanistan from around the world


The Friday Times –Lahore, Pakistan, newspaper published by 1999 CPJ award-winners Jugnu Mohsin and Nazam Sethi.

Pakistan Daily


News from Central Asia and the Caucasus

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Tajikistan

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Uzbekistan

The Times of Central Asia


Middle East International — London

Middle East Report
— US

BBC— Middle East

Ahram Weekly — Egypt

Gulf Daily News

Haaretz — Israel

Iran Daily

Jerusalem Post — Israel

Jordan Times

Khaleej Times — United Arab Emirates

Lebanon’s Daily Star

Oman Observer

Syria Times

Turkish Daily News

Yemen Times


Asia Times Online

Asia Week

Far Eastern Economic Review


Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel

Sahafa Online — List of Newspapers and other media