NEW YORK — CNN's Nic Robertson and his camera crew, thought to be the only U.S. TV journalists still inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, were ordered to leave for safety reasons, but negotiated a last-chance meeting set for today with the country's foreign minister.
Meanwhile, CNN said its Moscow-based correspondent Steve Harrigan has arrived with a camera crew in the northern rebel-controlled region of the country. Harrigan passed out on the air Monday on CNN International after an apparent case of food poisoning, but continues to file reports.
In his bid to remain in the Taliban-controlled part of the country, Robertson drove 14 hours from Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, to Kandahar to appeal the order with Taliban officials.
In an interview by satellite phone, Robertson characterized the discussions as "fairly one-sided so far, in the Taliban's favor. We keep meeting with a 'no.' "
He said he was making several arguments to officials, including "that it's important for the outside world to know what goes on inside Afghanistan," as well as a more emotional appeal, "that as somebody who has been here a long time, [I understand] the plight of the Afghan people, and without reporters here to talk about average Afghan people, that tends to get missed."
As he waited, Robertson said he had been forced to change his reporting style because his cameras drew too much attention.
Even under normal circumstances, it's necessary for camera crews to be surreptitious in Afghanistan. According to Robertson, the Taliban forbids the filming of any living creature, so crews must shoot from inside cars or from interior locations. "You can bend the rules," Robertson said.
But now, he added, "there is such close scrutiny of foreigners that [filming] is really unwise. We want to stay here."
So he and his crew aren't taking the camera on the street, instead filing reports with Robertson talking in front of the videophone. "It's radio with pictures, and the picture is me," he said. "We can report the story, just not in the normal style."
Even as Robertson was being ordered to leave, officials with other networks said they were trying to get reporters into Afghanistan.