Stephen Farrell, Sultan Munadi and a panel on war correspondence

Yesterday’s news that The New York Times correspondent Stephen Farrell was freed from captivity in Northern Afghanistan has been met with mixed emotions. His fixer, journalist Sultan Munadi, was killed in a raid of the compound where the two were being held.

George Packer at The New Yorker explains the often precarious position of fixers–the locals who help foreign correspondents with everything from translation to logistics–and expresses his frustration at what happened to Munadi in a blog post called, “It’s Always the Fixer Who Dies.”

In the course of the work, the fixer is relied on so heavily by the foreign correspondent that an observer who didn’t understand the system might assume that it’s the fixer who is in charge. After all, it’s the fixer’s country, and he or she knows it so much better. And yet the foreigner has the money, the name, the infrastructure, the power to hire and fire, and the ability to come and go, especially if things get sticky.

Packer’s post is exemplary of growing discomfort amongst foreign correspondents about safety for themselves and their fixers. Panelists in the first session of the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship 60th Anniversary Event, four seasoned conflict reporters moderated by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, discussed the risks of reporting on wars.

Clinton on Pakistan

A quick post — I was really surprised to hear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton being very forthright about America’s errors in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Let’s remember here,” she told a congressional hearing, “the people we are fighting today, we funded 20 years ago.” She links the problems in the region now, in part, to America’s policies in fighting the Soviet Union. “Let’s be careful what we sow, because we will harvest,” she said. Here’s the clip from CNN:

 

Front page, DawnThe major English-language daily in Pakistan, Dawn, highlighted her comments: US created Taliban and abandoned Pakistan: Clinton. Reporter Anwar Iqbal writes the lead, “Two days of continuous congressional hearings on the Obama administration’s foreign policy brought a rare concession from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who acknowledged that the United States too had a share in creating the problem that plagues Pakistan today.”

While it is significant for Clinton to have made such a blatant statement, the U.S. policy on Pakistan is still problematic, according to a Saturday editorial. Dawn writes: “Secretary Clinton may well be right in saying that the Pakistani people ‘need to speak out forcefully’ against the government’s policy of appeasement in Swat. But this amounts to going over the head of the government it claims is an ally and undermining its authority among the people. And all the tough talk against Pakistan cannot conceal that the Americans are themselves puzzled about how exactly to approach Pakistan.”

Update: Turns out, the State Department is looking for suggestions.