'Baptized by Fire' - Interview With Afghan New Media Journalist
Tim King Salem-News.com
Ahmad Mukhtar is a reporter with a high tech take on the current war in historic Afghanistan.
Ahmad Mukhtar in Kabul, Afghanistan
(SALEM / KABUL) - The ongoing war in Afghanistan has drawn far too many people into the line of fire. Among these witnesses to war are combatants, civilians, and a select handful of journalists in place to document the conflict for the sake of history.
A talented young Afghan journo named Ahmad Mukhtar is one of the new generation of Afghan reporters who are delivering breaking news through social media channels and getting a large, positive response. He contacted our newsroom after Bonnie King published her article, Journalists Brave Hours of Gunfire and RPG's to Live-Tweet Taliban Attack, to let us know that two of the photos in the article were taken him. As discussed below, Ahmad is doubling as a photographer with his iPhone camera, and thus helping further define the role of today's multifaceted Afghan journo.
Ahmad speaks both of the local languages; Dari in the north and Pashtu in the south, and this is important for the sake of interpretation, because Afghanistan is an extremely diverse country. There are two primary languages, yet Afghanistan is comprised of five distinct cultures and several beyond that. The country has a history of expelling invaders and occupiers and in recent history, witnessing a terrible decade-long civil war that saw the exit of the Soviets who were defeated by U.S.-backed Mujahedin rebels.
I have covered the conflict personally, but it would take years for any western person to be able to effectively deliver the local perspective, or convey the impact that the war is having on this society. There is really no more important view of the Afghanistan war than this. The following interview between Ahmad and myself explores a number of points that address his unique role as a member of the news media actively the war in Afghanistan.
Tim King: Ahmad, there are only a handful of people who have covered the Afghan
war as photographers and reporters, yet you are part of this unique group.
What led to your decision to cover war as a journalist?
Ahmad Mukhtar: The decades civil war In Afghanistan led me to cover this war as journalist.
TK: As a reporter working in Afghanistan, you are seeing many things, in fact history is
developing right before your eyes and lens. You have been, 'Baptized by Fire' as they say in
the west - I know you are living a life that is both exhilarating, and dangerous. Having spent
time covering the war also. I know a few things, but I think the real perspective comes through
the eyes of a person of Arab heritage, who can understand the language and culture and the
general feeling of the public. Can you talk about your understanding of the Afghan culture, and
do you speak Dari and Pashtu?
AM: We have the most rich and ancient culture in the world which has been around for more
then 2000 years, our nation is mostly nomadic and tribal society with different areas and
different aspects, my mother language is Dari and of course i can speak Pashtu as well.
TK: When I was in Afghanistan it was fairly early in the war, in 2006 and 2007. In Kabul I
found a city population that was relieved that the Taliban were gone, and there was a degree of
both trust and appreciation toward the Americans. However everywhere I went, I saw that the
US was helping the people, but not enough. Some Afghans benefited, but many more were
always turned away when the US soldiers offered humanitarian aid. How do people in Kabul see
the Americans today?
AM: Well, Kabul people seem to be optimistic in presence of ISAF especially Americans in
Afghanistan in fact the invasion after 2001 have changed the life of majority of the Afghan
people not only in Kabul but also all over Afghanistan, and of course Afghan people are
concerned about the security situation beyond 2014.
TK: You mentioned being a fixer, Do you fill in with other roles in media also?
AM: I am also working as cameraman and satellite coordinator sometimes.
TK: Making a living as a journo can be just like the job itself, very hit or miss. However
sometimes agencies have strong interest in this particular subject and with Iraq's war mostly
over, the western emphasis is once again on the war in Afghanistan. Are you able to market
your stories and what media groups and countries are most interested?
Photo of Mustafa Kazemi during a
recent Kabul firefight by Ahmad Mukhtar
AM: I have yet to write any articles and stories for any media, but I wish to write in the
future, in most stories now a days media shows interest in stories about women, violence
against women and of course war in Afghanistan.
TK: American media has spent years off and on ignoring this war in many
ways, and interest in all areas seems to be declining. I get the feeling that the commitment to
the war from the Americans and the other Coalition is decreasing. What is your thought on the importance of covering this war?
AM: First of all its my job to cover the war in Afghanistan and i get paid for it, the importance of covering this war is to let the people know what is really happening around them, especially in presence of more then 50 foreigner countries with their military and economically support still the unrest gets increase day by day.
TK: I worry on behalf of the people of Kabul, about what will happen with regard to Taliban and the terrorist groups if the US war winds down and ends. Do you think the western countries could pull out, and that the ANA could carry the fight?
AM: The main concern is beyond 2014 when NATO forces will pull out, I personally
don't think that the Afghan security forces will be able to take full security responsibility in
presence of the neighboring countries interference especially ISI's in Afghanistan's internal affairs.
Some youngsters are already trying to leave the country after hearing of US troops
withdrawal from Afghanistan.
TK: I know you are working primarily as a reporter, but you also have been able to grab
photographs with your phone camera, is this becoming common, working as reporter and
AM: Yeah its something common being reporter and photographer at the same time for some
agencies not for all, for example I take photos with my iPhone and I share it in my Twitter and
Facebook account and if any Media outlets want it they can use it.
TK: Ahmad, I sincerely appreciate your doing this interview, keep it safe brother, we appreciate
the chance to share this interview with our readers and would like to develop this into part of our
regular coverage, shukran!
Ahmad describes a painful future scenario in which, like almost always, the United States will invest hundreds of billions do fight a war and then abandon the effort in mid stride when the indigenous population pleads for the U.S. to not pull up stakes and leave them to the wolves. My criticism of this war is rooted in the way the Coalition nations have invested meager, tiny amounts in helping restore infrastructure. They spend large on destruction, and somehow miss the importance of winning hearts and minds in the process by helping restore the environment for life itself. We should not invest only to destroy and we should not leave this nation to the terror of the Taliban.
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
Tim King 2007, covering the Afghan War
Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from The Associated Press the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, Electronic Media Association and The Red Cross In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 24 countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide with an emphasis on Palestine and Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. Marines. You can write to Tim at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)
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