Somehow, It’s Always the Fixer Who Dies

September 10, 2009

News item:

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) – NATO troops freed a kidnapped British reporter for the New York Times in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, but his Afghan colleague, a British soldier and at least one civilian were killed in the rescue. Times reporters Stephen Farrell and Mohammad Sultan Munadi were abducted while attempting to visit the scene of a NATO air strike that killed scores of Afghans in the north of the country.

When a journalist doesn’t fit in racially, when he/she doesn’t speak the language, know the culture or lay of the land, they turn to fixers—streetwise and resourceful locals with the willingness to serve as a tool for a tool. Sultan Sultan Munadi Fixer -- photo by Tyler Hicks, NYTMunadi was such a fixer. His death yesterday has driven some to ponder the risks taken by these indispensable on-the-scene facilitators, these willing assets on the ground who often face the wrath of their own people and meet violent ends to help foreign journalists get their stories.  The fixer parses the story and does prep and all the legwork, and the so-called journalist gets the credit.

David Rohde, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent held captive for seven months in Afghanistan by the Taliban, eulogized Munadi as a “gentle stalwart.”

Wrote Rohde: “The death of Mr. Munadi illustrated two grim truths of the war in Afghanistan: vastly more Afghans than foreigners have died battling the Taliban, and foreign journalists are only as good as the Afghan reporters who work with them.”

George Packer, an essayist for the New Yorker and a critic of the opposition to the Iraq War by the “doctrinaire left,” describes his feeling after learning of Munadi’s death and Farrell’s rescue as “a sinking sense of unsurprise.”

“They serve as our walking history books, political analysts,” writes Times correspondent Barry Bearak, “managers of logistics, taking equal the risks without equal the glory or pay.”

via Xeni Jardin, boingboing

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