On Reporting & Media

What an Afghan News Outlet’s Early Encounters With the Taliban Tell Us About the Country’s Future

Even as tragic reports continue to emerge about Afghans trying to leave the country, others are thinking about how or whether they will continue to live and work in the new Afghanistan. Young Afghans in particular have little memory of the earlier period of Taliban rule in the 1990s, and many have grown accustomed to a more modern lifestyle, with easy internet access, a free press and a certain amount of protection for women’s rights. How will Afghans who remain in the country react to Taliban control, and is there any reason to believe the Taliban will allow certain basic freedoms to remain in place?

You Weren’t Born in 1905? Why People Lie to Facebook

WASHINGTON—When news of an enormous Facebook breach broke last month, Chris Wellens couldn’t help feeling a little smug. After all, nearly all the information the technology executive had given the social media giant was false. Consumers, wary of how their information is being used, lie about everything from names to birth dates to professions when companies ask for personal details online. Some are worried about identity theft, some just want to protect their privacy and some hope to fool adve

Seeking a way to get more personal without getting less objective

While on assignment in Somalia a few years back, I found myself sitting in the waiting room of the Mogadishu mayor’s office alongside a dozen Somali men—some in white robes, some in baggy suits. One of them—an old man with a cane who was clearly blind—started talking in Somali to my translator. The man had heard me speaking and wanted to know what the “beautiful woman” was doing there.

How a Facebook Fakery Fooled Africa Reporters

As rebels fought last month to overthrow Gambia’s autocratic leader, reporters who cover Africa frantically called Gambian government landlines for comment, with no luck. But one source had the information they sought: a Facebook page for President Yahya Jammeh. “Rest assured that the Enemies of the People have been defeated,” it proclaimed. Unfortunately for the numerous media houses that cited the page, it was a fake—a parody...

Afghan TV stations find censorship line is blurry

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The young Afghan woman in a headscarf spends all day staring at other women's bodies and Hindu idols on her computer screen, then covering them up. It's Laila Rastagar's job to turn Indian and Korean soap operas into family viewing in this conservative Muslim country. Dual flat-screen monitors illuminate the 22-year-old's face in the dark cubicle as she draws a blurry square with her mouse to obscure a collarbone, then a kneecap, then a Buddha statue. She's one of a crew of such editors employed by Tolo TV, Afghanistan's most popular station, to censor shows in an attempt to balance its programming at the intersection of radical Islam, traditional values and the West.

Gambian journalists say their small country has a big press freedom problem

BANJUL, Gambia —– Scores of reporters jailed, some emerging with tales of police beatings. Newspapers shuttered. A journalist forced into hiding. Gambia – a sliver of a nation on the West African coast – bills itself to foreigners as a cheerful beach resort, but critics say the country shelters a corrupt regime that is arresting reporters and closing down papers to silence opponents ahead of September presidential elections.

Found, a journal of lost thoughts

A crumpled piece of paper is lying on the ground. You absently pick it up. "Al, We have your binder. You will never see it again unless you leave a sum of $3.50 directly under the clock to the left of the door at precisely 1:15. Please do not inform any teacher of this transaction. If you mess up you WILL regret it. If you do not comply than [sic] you will never see it again."    Yes, discarded trash, but fascinating. Also, as it turns out, a magazine, or part of one.