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April 23, 2007

The Silent Journalist

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Iraq is the most dangerous country in the world to work as a journalist. Over 100 journalists have died there since the start of the war in 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Of those killed, 79 were Iraqis.

"Mohammed" has wanted to be a journalist ever since he was a teenager. It was impossible for him to work under the heavy restrictions of Saddam Hussein. Then the U.S. invaded, and Mohammed's dream came true: for the last 3 years, Mohammed has been working as a journalist outside Baghdad.

Mohammed is in the U.S. as part of a training program for journalists. He says just having a U.S. visa in his passport puts him and his family in danger. For this reason, we have agreed to use a pseudonym for him.

Mohammed talks to Dick Gordon about the stories he covers, and the new kinds of restrictions he faces from militias, police and the new Iraqi government. He also tells Dick about a recent clash in his hometown that he witnessed firsthand, but chose not write about.

If I was to write something about this, it would most certainly cost me my life. Because I may write something that one of the party in conflict would not like, and this is the situation right now in Iraq.

While Iraq remains a crisis zone for reporters today, it's worth noting the role that the arts can play in healing people who live in a war zone. Raoul Peck is a filmmaker whose work has explored the lives of people in Congo and in the country of his birth, Haiti. He is the writer and director of the 2006 feature film, "Sometimes in April" about the Rwandan genocide. Raoul chose not to have actors portray real people; he chose instead real people to portray themselves, despite his initial fear that asking them to do so would make them relive unspeakable horrors.

We're mostly very afraid to approach people who've gone through such a trauma. But little by little, talking to them, you start to understand that it's exactly the contrary: they do need somebody to listen to them.
-Raoul Peck
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