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Turkey: Flotilla Fallout

Kyrgyz Politics: Exiled Reformer Returns

Crisis in Kyrgyzstan

Moscow Bombings: Online Radio's Raw Response

Chechnya's Hidden War

 

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Turkey: Flotilla Fallout

It was less than three years ago that Israel's President Shimon Peres addressed the Turkish Parliament, the first Israeli president to speak before a Muslim assembly. The two countries were even working jointly on a Turkish-funded plan to bring economic development to the Gaza Strip.

But relations were thrown into turmoil last week when Israel's deadly raid on an international flotilla attempting to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip generated worldwide headlines and recriminations.

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Kyrgyz Politics: Exiled Reformer Returns

When I traveled to Kyrgyzstan a few years ago, I had reservations about meeting with Edil Baisalov. At the time, he had lost his funding support through a major U.S. democracy organization and pointed the finger at organization leaders reluctant to further aggravate declining U.S.-Kyrgyz relations. I wasn't sure what to expect from this young reformer or the remote Central Asian country that happens to house the sole U.S. forward operating airbase into Afghanistan.

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Crisis in Kyrgyzstan

Just five years after a violent revolution shook Kyrgyzstan, this former Soviet Republic woke up to more upheaval on Wednesday morning, when violent protests rocked the country's capital Bishkek. Dozens were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes with riot police.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled to the country's south. People began to worry that a civil war might break out between Bakiyev's supporters there and opposition party members in the north. But just three days after the initial violence, the country's opposition leaders seem to have gotten the situation under control. Former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva is now serving as Kyrgyzstan's interim head of government and there are reports that Bakiyev will be allowed to go into exile.

Frontline/World obtained video footage from media companies operating in Bishkek. We then asked local observers -- two journalists and the director of the Central Asian Free Market Institute -- to talk to us over webcam about their experiences and thoughts following Wednesday's violence.

Additional reporting: Alexandra Poolos

Moscow Bombings: Online Radio's Raw Response

On Monday, March 29, when images began trickling in online from the suicide bomb attacks in the Moscow metro, my first thoughts were of my wife's parents, who live there. Then I thought of the producers at Podstantsiya, a small online radio outlet I'd discovered last winter during a reporting trip to Russia. I wondered what information they were providing about the deadliest terrorist attack in Russia in years.

It turns out I wasn't alone. Many Muscovites, hungry for news, desperate to find out if their friends or loved ones were alive, or simply trying to figure what route to take to work, went online.

State television was doing a poor job of reporting the events. Morning TV stuck to its usual schedule -- programs about redecorating your home and revamping your personal style. Meanwhile, Podstantsiya, which means "substation" in Russian, experienced a surge of visitors.

Part Flickr and part Public Radio Exchange (PRX), the online station is supported by a Russian NGO trying to improve independent radio journalism in Russia. You can download all of the content for free.

FRONTLINE/World asked two of Podstantsiya's reporters to record over webcam their impressions of the attacks and how they reported them. We combined their accounts into a short piece almost entirely comprised of images and sounds from their website.

Chechnya's Hidden War

In February, correspondent Anna Badkhen traveled to Chechnya for FRONTLINE/World and the Center for Investigative Reporting to report on the still-simmering separatist insurgency and brutal government crackdown that continue to plague the republic. Badkhen journeyed to Grozny via a 43-hour train ride from Moscow, forced to hide her identity as a journalist in order to report on the tortures and disappearances happening deep inside Chechnya.

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Haiti Quake: Keeping Haiti's Internet Alive

With lives in the balance and medicine in short supply, the internet could seem like an afterthought in Haiti. But Paolo Chilosi, who runs Multilink, a leading internet provider in Haiti, says the net is as vital as food and water. Using generators powered by gas and solar and a little help from Cisco Systems, which flew in a team of engineers by helicopter this week, Chilosi is getting crucial institutions like banks, radio stations and the office of President René Préval (who the world has been waiting to hear from) back online.

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Haiti Quake: Improvisation Amid the Chaos

After suffering the worst earthquake in a century, the scale of Haiti's devastation is still unfolding. The nation has no electricity, cell phone coverage and land lines are down, but Paolo Chilosi, who runs Multilink, an internet provider in Port-Au-Prince, is keeping the internet running with solar power and batteries.

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Bolivia: Back on the Road With Evo

Following Evo Morales' recent election landslide, Bolivian video journalist Tupac Saavedra talks with iWitness about why Morales remains so popular with the majority of Bolivians.

Four years ago, Saavedra produced "On The Road With Evo" an insightful FRONTLINE/World documentary about Bolivian President Evo Morales' election campaign.

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Reflections: The End of a Divided Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Polish leader Lech Walesa (center) and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. PHOTO: EPA.

Some dates are so significant that they define the identity of whole nations. For Germans, November 9, 1989, is such a date. It was the day the heavily mined border known as "the death-strip" between East and West Germany was opened or, as popular shorthand would have it, the day the Berlin Wall came down. It was a day of celebration, hope, incredulity, and exhilaration.

As the German magazine Der Spiegel wrote from Berlin this week: That night, the whole city celebrated a new Day of German Unity.

The fall of the wall changed the lives of millions of people so profoundly that even after 20 years, some are still struggling to make sense of the day that united a nation but divided their lives into two chapters: before and after the wall.

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Peru: Kiva's Web-based Microfinance Growing Up

In 2006, when we first broadcast our story about Kiva's first micro-lending experiment in Uganda, the San Francisco-based nonprofit was already a modest success. The concept was simple: web surfers with a little bit of extra cash could use their credit card to provide microcredit to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

At the time, Kiva had just surpassed $500,000 in loans. This week, Kiva celebrated its fourth birthday, and its growth since our story aired has been nothing short of meteoric. Kiva is closing in on $100 million loaned and expanded its reach to small businesses across the planet.

We thought we'd check in with the company on its anniversary and find out how it's working with locals in a beautiful and remote high Andean outpost in Peru.

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Honduras: Standoff at the Embassy

Honduras' left-leaning president, Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed in a coup back on June 28, has returned to the country. He reportedly traveled over back roads from El Salvador, hidden in the trunk of a car, and has been given refuge at the Brazilian Embassy.

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China: Wall Scholar

There is apparently no formula to becoming an expert on the Great Wall of China. David Spindler was a graduate student in Beijing back in the early 1990s, when, as a hobby, he began trekking the wall through its thousands of miles of nooks and crannies, and studying ancient documents to reveal its secrets.

In 2002, he left a lucrative career as a corporate consultant to become a full-time "wall scholar."

Recently, he teamed up with photographer Jonathan Ball and set out on a mission -- to take huge panoramic photos along the wall on the anniversaries and in the exact locations of historic Mongol and Manchu battles.

We spoke to him over web cam from Beijing on the eve of two exhibits of Spindler and Ball's work opening in San Francisco and New York.

Afghanistan: A Stolen Election?

Over the last year we've been checking in with Jason Motlagh, a photojournalist who has been all over Afghanistan, including on military missions assigned to try and make the country safe enough to hold elections.

As Motlagh described back in February, it's a "hard fight," with fierce Taliban resistance, mounting civilian casualties and endemic corruption.

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Swaziland: The King and the Web

Swaziland is a country of haves and have-nots. King Mswati III (the country's absolute monarch) has 13 wives, 20 armored Mercedes and his net worth is estimated at more than $200 million.

Meanwhile, his subjects are among the poorest in the world (more than 60 percent of Swazis earns less than $1.25 per day) and plagued by a huge public health crisis. The tiny southern African nation has the world's highest per capita rate of HIV/AIDS.

Swaziland is also not particularly tolerant of dissent. Anti-sedition laws and self-censorship make criticism of the king rare. So, we wondered, what happens when the Twitter revolution comes to town?

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Jailed In Iran, A Reporter's Story

This is not your expected tale of a three-week stint in an Iranian prison. Photojournalist Iason Athanasiadis-Fowden, who was in Iran covering the recent disputed elections and massive protests that followed, was trying to leave the country ahead of his visa expiring when he was arrested and charged with espionage. He spoke to us over Skype from his parents' home in Greece shortly after being released from prison.

As you will see, there are moments in his retelling that are both humorous and terrifying. The fact that Athanasiadis-Fowden has spent several years reporting from Iran, speaks the language, and understands the culture certainly helped his cause.

His work frequently appears in The Washington Times and is supported by our partners at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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Guinea Bissau: A Narco State in Africa

When Marco Vernaschi, an Italian photojournalist, decided to head to the West African nation of Guinea Bissau, he knew that cocaine traffickers had already destabilized the tiny former Portuguese colony. But when he arrived on the scene shortly after the country's president and army chief were brutally assassinated last March, Vernaschi saw a place spiraling into a gangster's paradise. He has documented the chilling impact of the drug trade in places like Bolivia, and spent months in Guinea Bissau getting to know drug gangs from the inside.

He shares with iWitness how he captured such intimate portraits of assassins, addicts and prostitutes caught up in a trade that is relatively new to the country but leaving a devastating mark.

Vernaschi's work in Guinea Bissau is supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Read more in his riveting blog, where he investigates West Africa's growing drug trade and connections to Al Qaeda and Hezbollah in the region.

Afghanistan: After an Airstrike




Jason Motlagh has been reporting from Afghanistan for several months, first embedding with U.S. troops and more recently looking at the other side of the conflict -- the growing numbers of civilian casualties. Over webcam from Kabul, Motlagh tells iWitness what happened when a recent U.S. airstrike hit a village in Farah province, killing scores of civilians. Sharing dramatic footage and images in the wake of the bombings and interviewing victims and U.S. military, Motlagh reports conflicting accounts of what took place. The story he pieces together offers some measure of why the U.S. and NATO are reassessing how they fight the war in Afghanistan.

Motlagh's ongoing coverage from Afghanistan is funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and is part of a joint reporting venture between the center and FRONTLINE/World. Read his recent article in Time, "How Afghanistan's Little Tragedies Are Adding Up."

Pakistan: Education's Fault Lines

Journalists Sarah Stuteville and Alex Stonehill spent six weeks crisscrossing Pakistan to report on the country's growing education crisis. Both are funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and spoke recently with iWitness from Karachi about their experience.

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Burma: One Year After the Deadly Storm

On the eve of May 2, 2008, Cyclone Nargis ripped through the Burmese delta killing 100,000 and leaving millions more homeless. A year on, our correspondent in the region, who has made a number of clandestine reporting trips into Burma, takes the measure of recovery in the devastated area and finds tent cities and surprising pockets of renewal. He also travels to the mysterious city of Naypyidaw, the new multibillion-dollar capital still under construction and home to the reclusive generals. Security is so tight and the government so secretive about its new center of power that filming in Naypyidaw can land you in prison for three years. Safely out, he shares his impressions and footage with iWitness.

Interview With Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Editor's Note: "I believe in telling the truth," says filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy. In this webcam interview, she tells us why she undertook such a dangerous journey in her native Pakistan to document how the Taliban are repressing young girls and recruitIng children to carry out suicide attacks. She provides an update on some of the characters in her documentary and chilling behind-the-scenes details about her meeting with a Taliban commander. Watch her full report, "Children of the Taliban," online and share your reactions to the film.