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Afghanistan Is Another Dangerous Place For Journalists


And as our listeners, Renee is just back from Afghanistan. Renee, I should say welcome back.


Thank you very much, Steve. Glad to be back.

INSKEEP: It wasn't easy to report in Afghanistan either.

MONTAGNE: It was not supposed to be easy to report in Afghanistan, because this year there was something that really hadn't existed in years past, although it's often dangerous to go to lots of places in Afghanistan. This year what was happening in the run-up to the elections that I went there to cover was that journalists and foreigners in particular were being targeted as a strategy by the Taliban, saying that this was one way to disrupt the election.

INSKEEP: So, you had to go around knowing, Renee, that it was plausible that someone might spot you on the street or be tracking you down in some way simply because you were not from Afghanistan.

MONTAGNE: Well, there was definitely that thought because that exact thing had happened just a few weeks before. One Swedish reporter, Nils Horner, was standing on the street doing an interview and two men ran up to him and shot him - point blank - dead. And there were also attacks, as it turns out, on other journalists who were out in the countryside following those who were carrying ballots to villages out there. One of them died. I mean there were these really serious events, so of course, we did have to think about that and it made a difference initially in how we thought we were going to be able to cover the country. But in the end I managed to travel around, along with Peter Breslow, my producer, and Shoffee Sharifi(ph), our translator and colleague, and we went pretty much everywhere and saw as much as we could have hoped to have seen.

INSKEEP: Well, give me an idea here, Renee, because you were there to watch a presidential election, which did take place. You've been going to Afghanistan for years and years. And I'm just interested in the look of the place. How different, for example, does Kabul look than it did 10 or 12 years ago when you were traveling there?

MONTAGNE: It is - it looks dramatically different. If you're talking about just Kabul, when I first arrived in Kabul in 2002, it was rubble. It was, simply put, rubble - trees gone, stumps out on long boulevards where there had once been shade. Now there are many main streets that are paved. There are full trees that have grown up in the last 12 years. There is a sense of movement. There are tall buildings - buildings made practically of glass, which shows the triumph of hope over, you know, possibly reality. And there are even street lights, which was quite a new thing in Kabul. There are several of them and the most amazing thing about them are people stop when it's red.

INSKEEP: People actually obey the traffic signal.

MONTAGNE: They actually - my colleague, Shoffee, couldn't' believe it. Every time we stopped, he kept shaking his head saying, they're stopping, they're actually stopping for the light.

INSKEEP: A sign of progress...

MONTAGNE: And going when it's green.

INSKEEP: ...people stop.

MONTAGNE: Yes. It's quite a thing. And it's quite a different place. It's quite a bustling city.

INSKEEP: Well, that's a surprising insight, given that what we hear of there is violence, and there certainly is a lot of violence, but interesting the city's progressing as well. Renee, we're glad to have you back.

MONTAGNE: Glad to be back. And I have a couple more stories coming on in the next few days.

INSKEEP: We'll be listening. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.