Long before reading the details outlined in her book, Under the Afghan Sun (HarperCollins, 2011), I had always admired the reports of CBC-TV journalist, Mellissa Fung. Whether she was reporting on the harrowing events around the Robert Picton murders case, or examining the plight of some unfortunates in Toronto, Regina or Vancouver, Fung always seemed to bring compassion to her reporting. Many times, I wasn't sure whether she was just shy (odd for a TV reporter), or merely preferred to let the people she was presenting tell their own story. She offered up many perspectives while narrating the imagery, but she frequently filed full reports without doing a “stand-up” (literally standing in front of the camera talking to us) during her pieces. In other words, Fung didn't appear on camera. For me, this made Fung rather unique among TV journalists. This compassion is front and centre in Under the Afghan Sky. Sometimes it works; sometimes it is misplaced.
Since she seemed to prefer letting the people she was reporting on to have the spotlight, it must have been extremely difficult when, in October 2008 Mellissa Fung, became the story. In October, she was assigned by the CBC to do a five-week stint embedded with Canadian troops in Afghanistan. While visiting a refugee camp to interview people, whose lives had been disrupted or destroyed by the ongoing conflict, she was kidnapped by four men. Her natural instincts (and training – all reporters are given some sort of defensive training when they go into war zones) were to fight back. During the struggle, she got stabbed in the shoulder and hand (wounds that bled a lot, but were ultimately not too serious). After being forced to travel by vehicle, motorcycle and then foot, Fung found herself in a remote part of Afghanistan. During all this, Fung's instincts as a reporter began to kick in. She constantly questioned the men, especially Khalid (or that's what he called himself) because he seemed to understand English the best. Where were they going? When was she going to be released? Why were they doing this?