2/01/2006

COLD HARD FACTS

If you want an insightful look at the situation in earthquake-devastated Northern Pakistan pick up a copy of this week’s Listener. My friend Jon Stephenson spent a week in the region last month and met dozens of earthquake survivors, including the poor woman who had just been dug out of the rubble after 60 odd days.

His piece paints an interesting picture of the apparent failings in the humanitarian aid effort currently under way there. His special report, like the features he wrote for Metro about Iraq and the West Bank last year, is a very good read.

It was good to see more coverage of the Pakistan situation around Christmas as the news networks wrapped up the disasters of the year, starting with the aftermath of the tsunamis of Christmas 2004. But by and large, the disaster in Pakistan which made three million people homeless as the country was plunged into winter has been majorly under-reported.

Jon has covered a number of Middle Eastern conflicts in the last few years and does it all on the smell of an oily rag. He never gets “embedded” or engages in the hotel journalism better resourced reporters make do with. He travels anonymously, wearing the same garb as the people of the country he is visiting, working quietly with a trusted fixer, taking the road less traveled.

When Jon went to Pakistan at the height of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, I told him he didn’t have a shit show of getting across the border to cover the war. The next thing I saw was a report in the Sunday Star Times where he was reporting from Tora Bora, which saw some of the most vicious fighting of the war. His type of journalism is dangerous, overlooked and badly paid. But it’s needed to fill in the gaps in coverage provided by the big media organizations. I know Jon’s got plenty more planned for 2006 so keep an eye out for his work in print and on TV.

UPDATE: Scoop has posted some of Jon's photographs from Pakistan.

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