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Kosovo Spotlight; Afghan "Women of Courage"; Led Zeppelin Hype

Aired December 14, 2007 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
This week, press spotlight on Kosovo. As independence hangs in the balance, are international journalists playing the story straight? Behind the curtain of invisibility, we see Afghan women as they see themselves and hear from them in their own words in a new book, "Women of Courage."

And a one night stand? Reunited Led Zeppelin rock and roll legend played their first full concert in nearly three decades. We go behind the headlines with rock journalists to look at the press hype behind the recent (INAUDIBLE) epidemic.

We begin this week with Kosovo's media landscape. International opinion on the future make-up of Kosovo is divided. America is already committed to the idea of independence, but some European countries, especially those with their own secessionist movements including Spain, Cyprus, and Greece, are more skeptical, fearing that independence for Kosovo could set a precedent for separatist groups elsewhere.

To discuss this further, I'm joined by Kim Sangupta, "The Independent's" defense and (INAUDIBLE) correspondent, who was recently in Kosovo. And Iain King, co-author of "Peace at any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo." Mr. King also spent 2003 as head of planning for the United Nations mission in Kosovo.

Thank you both very much for joining us. Kim Sangupta, you've recently been in Kosovo. What is your sense of how the situation politically is playing out there?

KIM SANGUPTA, THE INDEPENDENT: Well, in fact, I was in Serbia and Kosovo. So it's interesting to see the perception from both sides. As you can imagine, there were internally and diametrically opposed.

The impression I got in Kosovo was that they think it's a fait accompli. They're going to get independence. They've got the backing of the U.S., (INAUDIBLE). And frankly, there wasn't any great mood for compromise. And I was in Serbia, of course, where I went just after Kosovo. They were desperate to have some kind of an accommodation to keep Kosovo within Serbia.

But the impression one got, I and my colleagues got was that this was really a fait accompli. And independence will follow.

SWEENEY: Iain King, Kosovo's been off the board in terms of being an international press story for a time maybe because of Iraq and Afghanistan. What is at stake here?

IAIN KING, AUTHOR, "PEACE AT ANY PRICE": There's a number of things. Kosovo was, in many ways, the last of the big Balkan Wars. The whole of the `90s were blighted in Europe for Bosnia, Croatia, and a whole series of bloodshed throughout the region.

Kosovo seems to mark the start of a new era in that there was a clear unanimity of international effort to try and solve the problem. Some of those hopes were maintained, so those hopes went a little bit awry and in a few years since the 1999 bombing up to the present.

And it might just have this thing turned out because it's quite possible, if it's handled badly, that they'll be renewed violence in either Kosovo or in the region. It's not clear whether it'll happen, but it's certainly a possibility.

SWEENEY: And Kim Sangupta, what is your sense of how domestic politicians - politicians, rather journalists are reading this? I mean, obviously, we know that in Kosovo, that there has been an attempt to set up an overseeing body, so that journalists there covering the story there try and be impartial to a certain degree. But do you have any sense at all of how this is playing out in the media?

SANGUPTA: Well, again, in both Kosovo and Serbia, that there was little I found anyway critical coverage of what's going in both the country. The journalists appear to following the national line in Kosovo, you know, the Serbs and then seeing the future and the union with Serbia.

Whereas in Serbia, the journalists I spoke to, including from progressive papers, were extremely bitter about the way they feel the West is extracting Kosovo away from Serbia.

So it was quite interesting that the journalists basically reflected the national mood in both the countries.

SWEENEY: And as international journalists, what was the reception towards you by the very sight?

SANGUPTA: Well, I mean, that's mildly ironic because I'd got there, as you pointed out, distractions elsewhere. I went to Serbia after a dreadful long trip to Iraq and then Afghanistan, back to back. And there was certainly a feeling that the international journalists have been entirely focused on Iraq and Afghanistan. And as a result, we have not appreciated what was going on in the Balkans. I think there's an element of - within that.

SWEENEY: It's hard to believe that there could have been a Balkan War just a little over 10 years ago in a post 9/11 world. I mean, is there any serious possibility that an outbreak of violence such as we saw in the `90s could take place again there?

KING: Well, there was just three years ago. There was a rather nasty battle. Some 20 people were killed in the riots of 2004. It's quite possible that something along those lines happens again.

For that number of deaths, you need a degree of coordination. And there's some evidence that there was a degree of coordination. This time, it looks like many of the political leaders who have paramilitary links might be on the side. But again, it's too early to say really. We don't know how the ramifications of a future announcement in the next few weeks is going to play out.

SWEENEY: And just to go back to the point that I made with Kim, when you were working with the U.N., what were your impressions of the press there?

KING: Well, the press started in 1999 after there had been press before. But from the 1999 onwards, it was pretty new and pretty rough around the edges. Many of the local papers were simply political vehicles for whoever was running them. And they often made really quite brutal attacks. There were some very nasty instance - one case in 2000 when they named a U.N. member of staff (INAUDIBLE) and said he was a war criminal. And this guy was found murdered 10 days later.


KING: So that was a problem itself. The U.N. then had to find a way of dealing with these errant press, this inflammatory language.

SWEENEY: And how did the U.N. deal with this?

KING: Well, it's a bit of a learning process. In the Posky (ph) case, the newspapers actually shut down, which (INAUDIBLE) spectacularly, because the press - the newspaper which had been shut down then just printed in Macedonia next door and imported in (INAUDIBLE). So that was the first effort.

And there were other efforts, such as fining newspapers when they came up with inflammatory language. That didn't work very well as well, because they simply refused to pay the fine. And those - it was very difficult to force them to pay it.

Then things started to develop in the 2004 case was quite pivotal in this because there's a lot of strong evidence, and the public broadcast permitted it, that 2004 (INAUDIBLE) inflammatory language on the public broadcaster.

And the public broadcasters then forced to reform. Training its journalists have brought a new code of ethics. And that has seen a marked improvement.

SWEENEY: Kim Sangupta, is it in the authorities interests to have a free press? I mean, obviously, you'd say in general, yes, it is. But in Kosovo, what's your sense of the relationship between the authorities and the press there?

SANGUPTA: The (INAUDIBLE) government is going to be very careful, especially, you know, knowing the background of (INAUDIBLE). And he hasn't been intelligible with the press - critical press in the past. So I think, you know, he would really like to not have to at least seem to be tolerating a free press.

But as Iain was pointing out, the fact that just because you have a free press, does not mean it's going to be a responsible press. And that's where the danger lies.

SWEENEY: We have to leave it there. Iain King, Kim Sangupta, thank you very much.

SANGUPTA: Thank you.

SWEENEY: Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, the faces of Afghanistan. While the media focuses on stories of battles and suicide attacks, we take an intimate look at the women who spent decades behind the burqua, but who are now forging a new future.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. This week, hundreds of Taliban fighters fled the southern Afghan town of Mousoquala (ph) in the wake of an offensive by Afghan and international troops. By changing tactics, the Taliban are stretching NATO and winning some pockets of local support.

Fighting a different battle are the women of Afghanistan, many of who have been silenced for decades. Weaving together lives that local Afghan women in unfiltered interviews, "Women of Courage" looks at women from hip- hop artists, to Olympic sprinters who are forging a new future and playing a crucial role in rebuilding their nation.

SWEENEY: Well, to discuss this further, I'm joined by the book's authors, Katherine Kiviat, a Middle East based documentary photographer and Scott Heidler, a Middle East FOX News correspondent.

Thank you both for joining us from Jerusalem. Catherine, what gave you the idea for the book?

KATHERINE KIVIAT, CO-AUTHOR, "WOMEN OF COURAGE": Well, originally, I went to Afghanistan in 2003 to help teach Afghan women photojournalism. And later, Scott joined me in Kabul. And together, we thought of this idea to show the world the "Women of Courage" in Afghanistan.

We were just so inspired by the stories we heard from these women on a daily basis. Whether they were making changes, large or small, they were doing a lot to help their country. And we wanted to show this.

SWEENEY: I mean, Scott, it's easy for a woman to be struck by the conditions of other women in different situations and circumstances. As a man, were you particularly struck by the circumstances you found many women in Afghanistan? Or was it more because of Katherine's involvement, who had been teaching photojournalism?

SCOTT HEIDLER, CO-AUTHOR, "WOMEN OF COURAGE": Well, it's interesting, because us as a couple going in was almost disarming for the women we were interviewing, and also getting the permission from the men in those women's lives. So us going to get there really kind of disarmed the situation. They knew we were together. We were a couple.

So there would have been a much more difficult for me going in, just as a man, to sit down with a woman in the household to conduct an interview. So that was a little bit disarming.

But as far as what - how it struck me, how the women were living, definitely. And this was even, you know, obviously, in a post Taliban era, where the situation for women was involving, was improving. But just still hearing the stories from the Taliban era, but also the struggles that were going on. And as Katherine mentioned, some of these women, big and small changes that they were making in their small community, in their school or a presidential candidate, what they would do and the courage they had to go out there and stretch the boundaries in this post Taliban era in Afghanistan was just amazing.

And it was, you know, there were a lot of situations that - particularly with one woman who is a recent divorcee, that what she had to go through just simply to get herself away from an abusive relationship, it struck me. I mean, you hear stories about that. But as a Western male sitting across from a woman telling you this story, through a translator obviously, it just struck a chord very, very hard.

SWEENEY: Stretching the boundaries is a phrase that Scott is using, Katherine. But you know, for example, there's one photograph of a woman who is a paratrooper. That might not seem out of place perhaps in Western society, but in Afghanistan, how common is that?

KIVIAT: Well, not very common, but General Katol (ph) was quite special. She was one of the women who stuck out to me the most of all the women we interviewed and photographed. She was working as an Afghan paratrooper before the Taliban came to power. And then, while the Taliban were in rule, she sat in her apartment for six years and did nothing but knit.

So she was quite courageous during that time in her apartment. She didn't lose any of her courage or her inspiration to go back to the Army. As soon as the Taliban fell, she put her uniform back on. She marched outside and marched up to the door to the Afghan national army. She was wearing her burqua, so at first they didn't recognize her. But as soon as she lifted it up and showed her face, they welcomed her back into the army with open arms.

SWEENEY: I mean, that's quite an extraordinary story. Scott, as you listen to these women tell their stories, were you aware of how comfortable or uncomfortable they might have been telling you about their lives?

HEIDLER: It varied greatly. Some situations, like journalists or other women, or some of the other women, some of the interviewees, who had been exposed to Western men, yes, they were a little bit more at ease than others, like the woman I was just speaking, who was in a very rural area just north of Kabul. She'd actually married an ex-Taliban driver. And she was going through this divorce.

So she was very nervous. She was there with her father. And he actually was helping translate the interview.

She was very nervous. And I could tell that she was not comfortable with me sitting there, but with the encouragement of her father, and through him, she kind of gained this courage to do this, because he helped her understand. And she understood this, too, how important it was for her to get her story out, for her to tell her story, for her own well-being, for her to really kind of cathartically go through the story, to tell someone about it.

But also, to tell it known in the outside world what they have to go through. And what she was doing, taking that bold step, actually stepping up and saying OK, abusive relationship that I'm in is, you know, it's a horrible situation. I need to get out of it. And this new post Taliban era in Afghanistan, I have a way to get out of it. So that's why she felt it was the need to go through this uncomfortable situation to sit down with me and tell me about her story.

SWEENEY: I mean, Katherine, how often do you see women journalists in Afghanistan? I mean, we see a photo in your book of Jimalan Mujahid (ph), who's a TV journalist. I mean, tell us a little bit about her story and how it might compare to a Western journalist?

KIVIAT: Jimalan Mujahid (ph) actually worked as a journalist before the Taliban as well. She started working for the Afghan national TV station. And during the Taliban rule, she also stayed in her apartment for six years and probably did nothing for both.

But she was so excited, as soon as the Taliban fell, she was the first Afghan journalist to go on TV and announce the fall of the Taliban. But she left her house in slippers and actually reported wearing them.

SWEENEY: That's really quite extraordinary. One other picture I'd like to touch on before we finish this conversation is that of a hip-hop artist, the female hip-hop artist. How did you find her, Katherine?

KIVIAT: That Shima (ph). She worked for the television station Tolo (ph) TV, which is a private TV station in Kabul, Afghanistan, quite progressive. And we found her through a friend who works at Tolo (ph) TV. And they had hired Shima (ph) because of her progressive views. And she wanted to show the rest of the Afghan women other videos from other countries, to give them inspiration to do something with their lives, such as singing, or dancing, or.

HEIDLER: And one thing is pretty amazing, too, is her sister is one of two Afghan - is a Afghan - one of two Afghan women who went to the Olympics, the Athens Olympics. So it's an amazing family. Very sad end to that story, though, is she was actually murdered in Kabul. Many suspect it was a family member, an honor killing, because she took this bold step and went out. Anatol (ph) TV had this program and really kind of stretched these boundaries, as we were talking before. And for that, she - it cost her her life.

SWEENEY: That's a very sad note in which to end this interview, but thank you both very much indeed for joining us. Scott Heidler, Katherine Kiviat in Jerusalem.

We'll have more on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS in just a moment. But for now, we leave you with some images from the book, "Women of Courage."


SWEENEY: The music industry is usually searching for the next new thing, but this year, the (INAUDIBLE) are bringing in big ticket sales. A recent wave of high profile reunions have resurrected the likes of Led Zeppelin, the Police, the Spice Girls, and even the Eagles.

For more on what's behind the break-ups and now the make-ups, I'm joined by legendary rock writer Steve Turner and Mark Sutherland, Billboard's London bureau chief.

First of all, what do you think is behind the make-up?

STEVE TURNER, MUSIC JOURNALIST: I think people realize that the best thing they got going for them is that (INAUDIBLE), and even though they've gone out and done individual projects, they're never as successful as well they can do together. So I think they realize in the end, they're going to make multi multi millions. That's the way to do it.

I mean, Sting was successful, but nothing like he's been with the reunion of the Police. And they cite 93 million just during the summer in America.

SWEENEY: And why do you think that even though Sting is clearly extremely talented, but on his own while he is extremely successful, that it's actually, everybody wants to hear the sound. Is it nostalgia?

TURNER: I think (INAUDIBLE) with Pink Floyd, I mean Roger Waters have done a lot of the writing for Pink Floyd. He created "The Wall." But when he out on his own thinking he would be the Pink Floyd, he was wrong. It was the Pink Floyd that was the Pink Floyd. And people, it's the brand name somehow just sort of carries the momentum.

SWEENEY: And in picking up on brand, I mean, it's very clear that even in the 60s, Pink Floyd were very aware of the brand, the power of the brand, which I maybe am načve, but it's something that I only saw in the last five or 10 years existed.

MARK SUTHERLAND, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, BILLBOARD: Yes. I mean, it wasn't a particularly common idea in the music industry certainly back in the `60s and `70s. But now, I think, artists are realizing that, you know, that's actually the much powerful thing of what they do. They realize that they can actually take more control of their careers. Perhaps the record lives are less important than they used to be.

And it really all comes down to, you know, those four or five individuals on what they represent when put together.

SWEENEY: And what impact do you think, given that the record industry is not as influential as it used to be in terms of sales, does that have on these reunions? I mean, the Eagles, for example, went to Wal-mart in the States and managed to get Wal-mart to buy three million of their albums, and then spend millions on promoting them.

SUTHERLAND: I think the Eagles deal is a classic example, really, of an established act, looking at the music industry and thinking well, we don't need them in the way we did when we were up and coming. And looking around for who they actually do need to reach their fans. Went to (INAUDIBLE) did a direct deal. And they paid off, you know, handsomely for them. They got the second biggest first week sale of any record in the States this year, while only being available essentially in one store.

So these things can pay big dividends for artists. But they only really work for established artists who have that brand name behind them.

SWEENEY: I mean, obviously, there's some clever marketing behind it, behind any reunion, be it Led Zeppelin, of which there is not one bad review of their recent concert, with the Spice Girls.

TURNER: Yes, I think - there's also, like the kids growing up, they've never seen these bands. They've heard about them. There's a chance to see them for the first time. But people in my generation, there's a chance to go back and see them.

I mean, my kids are in their 20s. And I love taking them along to see Dylan, McCartney, the Stones, and people like that because you think, you know, you may never get this opportunity again. So you're really hitting right across the generations with these big bands.

SWEENEY: Of course, the people in terms of the image, talk about how band members have become so much older and better - wiser. But certainly, the sound in the case of the recent Led Zeppelin concert, seems to have been very much the same?

SUTHERLAND: Yes, I think they had a young drummer working with him, which (INAUDIBLE), which was quite crucial to them being out to recreate that sound really. Because often, with this veteran (ph) as a the drums are the hardest thing to bring up to speed, particularly if you're a hard rock band.

So you know, I think the - with a band like Led Zeppelin, the songs are so classic, particularly in the States, actually, that you know, you still hear them on the radio all the time. So they have a kind of life beyond the band splitting up.

SWEENEY: There much be a huge fear factor. The Eagles, I think, spoke in a recent interview with "60 Minutes" about - in CBS in the States of the fear of - the circle of fear of actually getting to go there and seeing if you could play the songs and recreate the sound?

TURNER: Well, they're unusual in that they've not been touring recently. They've come out with a new album. And it actually sounds like a (INAUDIBLE) of all the past Eagles albums, because you kind of lose your momentum after that long off the road, I think, you know.

Early, your (INAUDIBLE) was to be famous, make a bit of (INAUDIBLE). Now it's just a key guy.

SWEENEY: Let me ask about how, in general, the music industry has received this.

SUTHERLAND: I think, well, I mean, it's been a phenomenal year for reunions. We've seen some of the biggest reunions there's probably ever been. Led Zeppelin has had the most attention. The Police have made the most money. And you know, the Spice Girls have sold an awful lot of tickets, particularly in the U.K.

SWEENEY: But since you mention the Spice Girls, if I can interrupt there, I mean, there's a world of a difference between the Spice Girls and Led Zeppelin reforming?

SUTHERLAND: Well, there is. But I guess if you're a fan, I mean, then it's probably, you know, not so much of a difference. And they're tapping into that same nostalgia. They're just doing it.


SUTHERLAND: .thirty years earlier essentially. I don't think - you know, in fact, I think Led Zeppelin are probably reaching more of a new audience than the Spice Girls are.

SWEENEY: I mean, the difference between fabrication and - such as the Spice Girls and you know, the Eagles, for example, I mean, does it make any difference in your mental attitude towards them?

SUTHERLAND: Well, it goes, yes. I mean, I did an Internet search. And there are bands that are reforming, I didn't know started, you know. You know, there are bands that have only been in existence a few years. They've broken up and they're now reforming.

I was just in Las Vegas. And I was trying to get tickets, like press tickets to see the Spice Girls. And I was saying well now it's all sold out, and blah, blah, blah. But I read in the papers now that they're only playing to half full houses in Las Vegas. So rather huge here. I don't know if that spreads around the world.

SWEENEY: I have a question. Does it say anything also these reunion bands about the state of the music industry today?

SUTHERLAND: Well, I think there's obviously less emphasis. Either the record companies are not playing such a big role, CD sales are down, people are downloading. So the live experience is even more important.

And also, the bands are making from live performances and from the merchandise that goes with live performances. So you know, that there is a big emphasis on going to gigs.

TURNER: It says a lot about the way the industry markets acts. I think it's phenomenally difficult to break a new act these days. Certainly to make on a superstar level. It takes an awful lot of money, an awful lot of work. It's much, much harder than it used to be.

So record companies, or touring companies, or whoever develop with these bands, probably less than I think should we do that? Or should we just go with this established brand that we can just bring back by personal (INAUDIBLE) for a lot of those channels and come in at the top level straight away.

A lot of the time, that's the easiest sell. And in an industry that's not doing as well as it used to, that's pretty crucial.

SWEENEY: Steve Turner, Mark Sutherland, thanks very much indeed.

INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS is now available online. Log on to to see all or part of it again. Take part in our quick vote. Which band would you like to see reunite. And watch out for our weekly blog. You'll find it at

And that's all for this edition of the program. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.