Foreign Policy Blogs

The NYTimes’s Carlotta Gall on the Female Journalist

Carlotta Gall is the Kabul-based veteran war correspondent with The New York Times who reports on both Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Read one of her recent report from the front lines, Pakistan and Afghan Taliban Close Ranks.

I caught up with her last week while working on a piece for an upcoming article for Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists.

What types of challenges have you faced as a reporter in Afghanistan and Pakistan simply because you are a woman?

“Only twice I think when madrassas or certain mullahs refused to be interviewed by a woman or allow a woman to enter their premises. Once I wanted to join a colleague and interview a mullah from the TNSM in Malakand and I had to sit in the car outside while he took my tape recorder in. Another madrassah in Quetta [Pakistan] said women were not allowed inside so the local reporter went in and asked the question for me. The same problem existed during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan but I have not had that problem since 2001 since the current government is more relaxed.”

Do women journalists get more access to people and parts of society because of their gender?

“Women can go into the female quarters of households. In conservative traditional areas men who are not relatives are not allowed in these areas. There are ways around this for men to interview or hear women’s views, but it is much easier as a woman. Often though language is a problem since the women often only speak local dialects, whereas the men are better educated and can speak Urdu or even English.”

You’ve covered conflict for years. What is different about the experience of covering what has been happening in Afghanistan?

“Conflict is conflict wherever you are. Kidnapping has become a serious threat, as it was in the Caucasus in the 1990s. The Al Qaeda element in the insurgency in Pakistan and Afghanistan has made it particularly dangerous for non-Muslim journalists, or anyone working for western news outlets.”

If you could go back and do it again [your career], would you do anything differently?


Of all the stories out there, why cover Afghanistan and Pakistan?

“It’s a good story and a developing story. An important issue for the U.S. and west, and the people or the region deserve better.”

What insights about humanity have you gained from reporting in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

“Same as anywhere, civilians suffer the most in war.”

Do women bring some kind of unique insight to covering conflict?

“No—compassion, stamina, whatever you need for journalism is sexless.”

Where do you see the war in Afghanistan going in the next couple of years?

“On and on.”



Genevieve Belmaker

Genevieve Belmaker is a freelance journalist and contributing editor with The Epoch Times ( She also contributes to Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists and Her blog on journalism is

Genevieve has traveled throughout the U.S., Asia, Central America, Israel and the West Bank for reporting assignments, including major investigative reports on the recovery of New Orleans, the encroaching presence of China in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the dangerous import of melamine-contaminated milk into the U.S. and settlement outposts in the West Bank. She regularly reports on issues related to journalism, and the work of journalists.

She holds a BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations, and has been a member of several prominent national and international professional media organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the New York Press Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and son.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Journalism; Culture and Society