There has been some fascinating discussion around a new book by Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert, When Reporters Cross the Line. It examines the point at which journalists are no longer just witnesses but active players in the story. I haven’t read the book yet, but this piece in The Observer looks at the relationship between hacks and spooks, and in particular the way Sandy Gall briefed MI6 agents (over cold meat and salad) on what he had seen and done during his trips to Afghanistan during the 1980s.
I don’t think it has ever been a secret that Gall was sympathetic to the Mujahideen and did more than almost anyone to keep the story alive – and thus the weapons flowing. But even I was a little surprised to read of this meeting (described in Gall’s recent book on the Taliban) with General Zia-ul-Haq, the then military ruler of Pakistan, shortly before Gall’s ITN crew headed back over the mountains. Zia asked if there was anything else they needed…
“Yes,” I said on the spur of the moment. “Could we take some SAM7s with us?”
He looked slightly surpised. “It would make a brilliant picture if we filmed a Russian helicopter being shot down by a Russian missile,” I explained.
Zia got the point. “Yes of course,” he laughed. “I’ll ask them to send some with you.”
I’m pretty certain that’s on the far side of the line.