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'A man on an independent mission in india'

 

Even as bullets roared amidst crisis in Bangkok, back in 2010, a journalist on the line of action didn’t lose ground. While his outer thigh was hit by pellets from a shotgun fired by the Thai Army, this foreign journalist took shelter in a Buddhist temple till he was rescued into a hospital. Aditya Raj Kaul catches up with Andrew Buncombe,Asia Correspondent for one of the largest circulated newspapers, The Independent, of the United Kingdom.
ADITYA RAJ KAUL | New Delhi, July 6, 2012 18:15
Tags : Bangkok |
 

You’ve been reporting from the South East Asia on communities, conflicts and politics. How has journalism changed over the years?

I think that main change has been the ease of access to information via the web and email. It means that reporters in the field can keep track of events more easily. It is much easier to file a copy to your editors. The downside is that there is more expectation for coverage to be more comprehensive.

In 2010, while covering the Thai army assault on Red Shirt demonstrators in Bangkok you received bullet injuries. Were you prepared for it? How far has it been a life-changing experience?

I had been prepared for it in the sense that I’ve been on a security training course and had covered a couple of conflict situations before. I was also aware that there had been lots of deaths in the proceeding weeks and had seen first-hand the Thai security forces casually firing off live rounds in residential areas. However, I was not expecting troops to start firing into a Buddhist temple where hundreds of civilians were taking shelter.

I cannot say it was a life-changing experience but you cannot help reflect on things after a situation where so many people lost their lives.

How different has reporting from India been till now?

Indiahas been a pleasure to work in. In terms of getting comments or information from official sources, it is not always simple. But the real joy is heading off to some town or village and meeting people. In those situations you are made to feel very welcome and everyone appears happy to talk to you. In five years here, I can count the number of times people have said “no comment” on one hand.

Has it been a nightmare to deal with Government-administration here in India, at least at a local level?

I cannot say it has. Getting the visa each year has been a pretty smooth process for me. There are a lot of journalists who have not had it so easy, however. Getting the Press Information Bureau (card) still seems to take a very long time for some reason.

Since your innings in media, which assignment has been the most challenging for you as an investigative journalist?

Probably the run-up to the war in Iraq, when I was based in Washington. The US and UK governments were making a very strong case for war and there were very few alternative sources of information that could challenge the claims about WMD. Looking back, its one clear example where you realise that the media, with some honourable exceptions, did pretty badly.

Most foreign correspondents are known to pen their memoirs in India. Do you also plan to write a book on your reportage or any particular aspect or issue that may have touched you deeply?

There have been some terrific books written by my colleagues and predecessors. I am not sure I am in their league, but I would like to try and do one at some point. I think it would require a lot of time and effort.

What are the key essentials in your opinion for a foreign journalist to grasp before any assignment?

Two main challenges for a foreign journalist are trying to be aware of the cultural context of any event and the history. In India, for example, events that seemed unfathomable to me, made much clearer sense once someone explained the relevant background.

The other crucial thing, as always, is to gather the facts yourself. It may be tempting to stay in the office and read the local newspaper and watch TV, but often the reality is quite different. You have to make the effort to find out for yourself.        

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017