Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghanistan: May '07

IWPR trainee reporters in Helmand province break top international news story.

The story Afghan Fury at Lethal Air Strike (ARR 252, 11 May 2007) is one of the best recent examples of the unique strengths of IWPR’s Helmand project.

The IWPR team, including Country Director Jean MacKenzie and Project Assistant Abaceen Nasimi were in Lashkar Gah on May 8, when a raid by the US-led Coalition Forces flattened the small village of Garmau, in the Sarwan Qala area of Sangin, about 100 kilometres to the north.

Garmau is an obscure village in a distant area, and no journalists were there on the ground. But within hours of the strike, IWPR trainees were receiving reports from residents of Garmau, distraught over the deaths of their loved ones and the destruction of their homes. The British forces at the Provincial Reconstruction Team had not had any word of the incident, and learned about it from IWPR.

That evening, Jean MacKenzie was interviewed about the bombing by National Public Radio, one of the major U.S. radio networks. The spot was based on the reporting done by IWPR trainees, and it broke the story for the major media. The rest of the press pack then was chasing our story, and the New York Times reported on it two days later.

As a result, NATO had to come out with an apology for the strike, and an attempted justification of its bombing campaigns.

IWPR trainees are among the finest journalists working in Helmand province, and have managed to shed light on areas that had previously gone unreported. The tragic incident in Garmau was an issue that demanded extended coverage, and, thanks to IWPR’s reporters, it received it.

This, in turn, resulted in increased accountability on the part of the provincial government and the foreign military presence, as well as giving the people of Garmau an outlet for their anger and grief.

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