Dispatches From Dictatorships

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Back in 1995, when I was helping build the original website for The Christian Science Monitor, our first version of the site was built around one particular issue. Our then-correspondent, David Rohde had been taken prisoner by the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic because David had broken the story of the massacres of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.

Rohde was eventually released but his detention illustrates the dangers that many foreign journalists face from the governments of the countries they cover. Recently we've seen evidence of this in Myanmar, where media organizations (including NPR) have decided not to identify reporters for fear they will be arrested and jailed by the military dictatorship.

And in countries like Cuba, North Korea and Sudan, foreign journalists find themselves accompanied by a "minder," which makes it very difficult to find any local citizens who are willing to be honest about the situation in their countries.

On today's show from the Newseum, we'll talk to reporters about what it's like to get the story under the ever watchful eyes of a dictatorship.



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The Western media is biased because you use the frame "dictatorships" and "repressive regimes" rather than identifying the ideological differences of
capitalism and socialism. Socialist governments are either vilified or treated as "non-entities" because Western reporters lack the historical and political context to report accurately. Therefore, it is the Western media which is repressing itself, out of narrow blinders.

Sent by Lotus | 3:33 PM | 5-21-2008

Recently Army Sgt. Adrienne Kinne (Ret.) revealed that she saw secret US military documents that listed the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad as a possible target even though it was known as the hotel that housed foreign journalists. Can your guests comment on the United States in the context of "regimes" for whom certain reporting can lead to a limiting of access? In fact the shelling led to the deaths of two journalists.

Sent by Robert | 3:37 PM | 5-21-2008

OK, it is a far stretch to compare Castro to African dictators, Cubans have a longer life span than we do, many are very happy. But that aside, the worst times I have ever had were in Israel in Ben Gurion Airport, the Israelis would ask, "Did you talk to any terrorists?" meaning Palestinians, and well, yes, if one visited Jerusalem one spoke with Palestinians. So lying is/was a part of the game to create fear and terror. It was absurd and it works both ways--so called 'friends' and so called 'enemies' all play the game.

Sent by Susan | 3:38 PM | 5-21-2008

how about in China?

Sent by mac | 4:01 PM | 5-21-2008

I was listening to Talk of The Nation this morning and a listener calling in pressing the panel to talk about reporting on "Fa-Lun-Kong", "Tibet Issues" during Olympics. Yes I agree the journalists sould be free to report all issues HOWEVER ONLY TO REPORT ALL ASPECTS OF THE ISSUES. It is ultra hypocritic, double-standards and divorced from reality if media use "freedom-of-speech" to only report one-sided stories. When was last time a Western journalist reports about how the MAJORITY of Chinese think of "Fa-Lun-Gong" or "Dalai Lama"?! When was the history and doctrines of "Fa-Lun-Kong" or Dalai's reign explained, reported? It is extremely biased for Western media to go to China, by-pass the street crowds and SEEK delibetrately those minority who have opinions fit into their political agenda. That, is NOT freedom of speech. That is hypocritic one-sided poor journalism. You dont go into a country, whether you deem "repressive" or not by your standard, and ONLY report ONE SIDE of the same issue. The Majority of the Chinese People would like to be heard as well - not just a small handful of dissidents, Fa-Lun-Kong nutcases out of 1.3 billion people. What would Americans think if Chinese reporters come over and brush-paint the busting of the Later-Day-Saint Cult as the main-stream American society?

Sent by Lucas Li | 6:48 PM | 5-21-2008

Madeline Albright seemed to enjoy Kim Jong-Il's company when she visited North Korea. She particularrly loved the synchronized dance routines performed by the citizenry. Jim McDermott D-WA, Mike Thompson D-CA, and David Bonoir-MI got cozy in Iraq with Saddam Uday and Kusay. You crazy Dems, you give the benefit of the doubt a little too often! Get this! Obama wants to talk to Ahmadinejad. Too bad Edi Amin isn't still around, I bet he was nice to visit, too.

Sent by MO | 1:40 PM | 5-22-2008

Why should we discuss whether or not to go into other countries to report on dictatorial abuses of the populace when we cannot get honest reporting out of Iraq and from our own government in the land of the free. Free Press? I don't think so.

Sent by Tom Ballou | 6:12 PM | 5-23-2008