- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 December 5 , 2003 

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

I never attended journalism school, but even if I had I doubt there would have been a course for editors on: “Effective Means for Coaxing Your Journalist Out of a Mine Field”.

Such a lesson might have come in handy two days ago at a roadside stop near Askeran while an ArmeniaNow team traveled in Nagorno Karabakh.

We were traveling back to Shoushi from Mardakert. On the outskirts of what used to be the sprawling, but is now the crushed city of Aghdam, Arthur asked if I’d stop the car so that he could take a photo of an Azeri cemetery.

This was Arthur’s first time to shoot in Karabakh. Well, with a camera anyway. He’d been sent to a border town near Fizuhli during his army conscription. But soldiers exist to create cemeteries, not to document them, so this was new ground. And the ground Arthur stepped out onto most likely was not safe.

Over a few years of traveling in the regions of Karabakh I’ve come to know that any step off a proven path could be a dangerous one here. It didn’t occur to me that Arthur didn’t know that too, until I saw him off the side of the road, where I expected to see him, and instead in the middle of the cemetery where I knew his steps were a gamble.

I once found myself in his place on an excursion near the contact line in Talish. But I’d never been on the safe side of the situation. My plan for extraction was simply, firmly, but calmly, to tell him that he needed to come back, because it was time for us to go. You know, places to go, people to meet. And, by the way, coming out could you step exactly where you stepped on your way in?

We were traveling, though, with our new friend Rouben. Rouben was at a roadside picnic once when a man landed in the middle of Rouben’s lunch table, after being blown off a tractor that crossed a land mine. Rouben had a different – let us say, more direct – approach to the situation. He shouted:

“Arthur! You can’t be out there, this place is full of mines!”

Well, this is not anywhere near what a person wants to hear when his main concern has been shutter speed and light exposure. Welcome to a more serious definition of exposure, my young friend.

We watched as Arthur – what’s the word here? – “negotiated,” I guess, his way out of a graveyard willing to accept one more occupant. What advice do you give someone in this predicament? “Watch your step, buddy,” hardly seemed right.

Again, our crusty travel companion had answers. Rouben allowed that one should, first of all, take very loooong steps. If he felt anything unusual on his leg or under his foot he could: Freeze in his place and wait until an expert could be summoned; or he could throw himself as far forward as possible and hope to only lose a leg.

Of course this would be a very different story if our colleague hadn’t made it out of that field – ashen faced and laughing from nerves, but otherwise okay and certainly wiser.

We joked about it on the ride back. And it will make a good tale in the newsroom. For too many, though, the stories have no amusing end.

According to Rouben -- who lived through the war, and now lives with its lingering damage, including land mines – about once a month somebody here isn’t as lucky as our haphazard photographer.

I’m eager to see the photo Arthur shot out there. It better be damn good.

According to Agnes
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A concert in Yerevan last weekend promoted Thursday's All Armenia Fund telethon. Overall the telethon raised more than $6 million, with some $600,000 coming from within Armenia.



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