January 20, 2022

People Column

2022 January-June Issue

January 7, 2022

SCHOLARS

Poet Tess Taylor, winner of the Harper’s Magazine Scholarship in 2004, was interviewed by High Window on Dec. 3 as part of its Voice of America series. Taylor, who is the poetry critic for NPR’s All Things Considered, won her OPC Foundation scholar award when she was a graduate student in journalism at New York University.

Kantaro Komiya, the Stan Swinton Fellowship winner in 2020, has been churning out stories for Reuters since taking on his role as economic policy reporter at the agency’s Tokyo bureau last summer. He has more than 50 bylines linked on his bio page, most recently including a Jan. 4 story about Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s plans to curb the omicron variant, and a pair of stories on Dec. 26, one providing analysis of the country’s retail sales picture in light of COVID-19 and another on more than 100 forced flight cancellations from heavy snow over the holidays.

UPDATES

Dieu Nalio Chery, the 2019 winner of the OPC’s Robert Capa Award for work he did in his native Haiti for The Associated Press, wrote to the OPC to report that he was threatened by gangsters in Haiti and fled to New York City with his family. The upheaval started on March 17, 2021, after photos he had taken during a violent protest for the AP in the capital of Port-au-Prince were published, when “gangs who showed up in the pictures were looking for me everywhere.” The Open Society (OSF), Fokal Haiti, AP, and Global Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF) are supporting him financially for one year, and he has a full scholarship for one year at CUNY where he is studying and sharing his experience with other students. AP helped him leave Haiti, and the Magnum Foundation worked very hard to help the family find an apartment at Westbeth Artist Housing in Manhattan, he said. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is providing counseling support. Getting visas for his family was not difficult, he said, noting that the US embassy in Haiti understood what he was facing. In New York he is doing freelance work for Reuters and The New York Times. His two daughters go to local schools and his wife is studying English. “I am worried about my future here because I have to start everything again. I am looking for a stable job,” he said.

Beth Knobel, an OPC Governor and longtime member, posted a link on social media to a Jan. 5 article on the Russian news site agentura.ru indicating that the Russian intelligence service was spying on her and colleagues while they were reporting for CBS News in Moscow in 2006. Knobel provided a rough translation of the article in her post, which said that on April 30, 2006, “Oleg Skopintsev, acting head of the Department of Counterintelligence operations of the DKRO – the most combat unit of the FSB Counterintelligence Service, which is responsible for hunting foreign spies in Lubyanka – sent a report to his leadership ‘on the plans of the Moscow office of the American TV company CBS.’ It was about Beth Knobel’s work on the film about ‘Nord-Ost,’” a reference to a terrorist attack and hostage crisis at a theater in Dubrovka where the musical “Nord-Ost” was playing, in which Russian special forces used gas during a raid that ended in at least 130 deaths. The original CBS piece she had been working on is linked here.

OPC member Kathy Gannon, news director for Pakistan and Afghanistan for The Associated Press, reflected on her 2021 coverage of what she called “a particularly tumultuous year” in Afghanistan during a year-end video package and interview on Dec. 27. She said turmoil started with U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement of a total U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal in August. “It seems that it really caused a sense of abandonment within the Afghan Army. Afghans had been increasingly despondent with the future of their country, even before the Taliban took power,” she said. The withdrawal spurred a social media campaign that falsely claimed Americans would transport anyone who showed up at the airport out of the country, causing chaotic scenes during the exodus. The AP also published an expanded reporter’s notebook covering Gannon’s work in 2021. Gannon has written and contributed to dozens of AP stories since the announcement, including friction within the ranks of Taliban leadership, restrictions on education for women and girls, the Taliban’s refusal to work with the U.S. to contain Islamic State, and interviews in December with the Taliban’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai

OPC member Elena Becatoros’ coverage for The Associated Press shifted from Greece to Afghanistan in December as she wrote for the news service from Kabul about stories including climate change, the reopening of a national museum, a piece on traditional wrestling, and a story about parents selling children in desperation amid poverty. On Jan.1, she posted on Twitter that the AP had received a lot of response from readers hoping to help the families mentioned in her article and the agency was hoping to “have some suggestions in coming days.” Becatoros has worked as the Southeast Europe bureau chief for the AP, based in Athens, since mid-2007 and continued to report on that region during her stint in Kabul.

Mellissa Fung, an OPC member and award-winning Canadian broadcast journalist who was held captive in Afghanistan for 28 days in 2008, moderated a webinar for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in December to discuss Canada’s responsibility for supporting Afghan allies who helped the country’s military while deployed there. Fung had been in Kabul in July just two weeks before the troop withdrawal, and said Canadians, Americans and people from other countries contributing to NATO forces were “completely unprepared for something so many people had warned us about.

OPC member Rachel Donadio moderated a panel of historians for the Museum of Jewish Heritage on Jan. 5 about the “politics of memory” in Poland after Poland’s nationalist government enacted a law in 2018 that criminalized speech that holds Poland responsible for Nazi crimes. Donadio, a contributing writer for The Atlantic based in Paris, said in her introduction that the situation in Poland reminded her of a quote she heard while reporting in Moscow in 2015, that “the future of Russia had become unpredictable, and so had the past.” She said as the government has grown increasingly authoritarian and isolated, it has also revised history. The discussion was co-presented by the museum and Descendants of Holocaust Survivors.

Claudia Rosett, a past OPC Award winner, club member and foreign policy fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, was interviewed about Hong Kong and China for a recent issue of inFOCUS from the Jewish Policy Center. She said that in mid-2020, while the world was preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic, “China struck back, dealing a mortal blow to Hong Kong’s freedoms by imposing a ‘National Security Law’ that, in effect, empowers the administration to criminalize any form of dissent or pretty much any behavior, they dislike.” Rosett previously worked as a staff writer and editor for The Wall Street Journal, a columnist at Forbes, and has contributed to The New York Times, The Weekly Standard, and other publications. She received an OPC Citation for Excellence in recognition of her on-the-scene reporting of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.