Akbar Ayazi, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s regional director who oversees Afghanistan and Pakistan, leaned his elbows on the long conference table and described a situation with a reporter in the field. “Cut him off. Make him go home. I don’t want him there,” he said at the time.
He looked at the wide eyes of the 12 Americans sitting around the table and added, “No report is worth your life.”
Suddenly the videos of training we saw on our trip to the military university in Vyškov last week came into focus. Reporting can be frightening, dangerous work, and anyone reporting in the 21 countries RFE/RL reaches is going to want any edge he or she can get. Fourteen days of physical discomfort and mental anguish might provide the skills and spark to make staying alive possible.
Not every journalist working with RFE is in a life-threatening situation. Daisy Sindelar shared some of her thoughts about being a senior correspondent in the the Prague Central Newsroom and a feature writer. She said being a mother has probably made a difference in how she sees some stories. She declined our tour leader Larisa Balanovskaya’s offer to get one story as an example of Daisy’s writing. “I’d rather not cry,” she said softly.
Glenn Kates, manager of digital initiatives for RFE/RL, said the “difference between knowing something is happening and seeing it happen” is huge. His example — a video showing Russian Parliamentary election fraud — is the kind of story the made a difference because people couldn’t ignore the situation then. “It changed things,” he said.
“We must be balanced, fair and comprehensive,” Ayazi said. “Some things need to be public,”Irina Lagunina, managing editor of the Russian Service said. The 500 who work in RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters and the other 1,000 around the world must believe this. Their examples and explanations gave the Kent State group a new view of journalists, one they hadn’t seen before.