New York Times chief foreign correspondent John Burns has written a blog about Sultan Munadi (pictured), the Afghan interpreter and journalist killed when the paper's reporter Stephen Farrell was freed in a military operation after they were kidnapped by the Taliban.
The blog considers the vital role of local staff who help journalists cover war zones.
Burns writes: "We have to go out of our compounds to experience the conflict at first hand if our reporting is not to quickly descend into “hotel journalism.” Some of that, indeed much of it, has been done on embeds, where our protection comes from the military units we cover. But an essential part, too, comes from going in search of the war that embeds don’t reach – the “other side” of the war, often enough; the war as it is experienced by ordinary Iraqis and Afghans, the civilians who have done most of the dying.
"That was what Stephen Farrell was doing when he and Sultan set out on Saturday for the site of the fuel-tanker bombing south of Kunduz. "
He adds: "If we are to tell the story of the wars, we have to engage local staff who can accompany us as interpreters and drivers, and who can “scope out” the landscape, political, geographic and cultural, to help us fix the context of what we see and hear. That’s not an option, it’s a necessity, and one that is common to all major news organizations at war. And it means, ipso facto, that our journalism involves venturing into dangerous places with local staffers like Sultan."
The New York Times has set up a fund for the family of Sultan Munadi. Contribution should be sent to The New York Times, 680 Eighth Avenue, 3rd Fl.New York, NY 10018. Attn: Cynthia Latimer. Cheques must be made payable to “The New York Times,” noting Sultan Munadi’s name in the memo field.