For journalists working in Iraq, it sometimes feels like trying to operate between a rock and a hard place.
Last week around 60 of us covering the battle in Najaf were sitting in our hotel when the Iraqi police burst in.
A man we later nicknamed "the evil smurf" stormed into the lobby and fired a shot into the wall. Other policemen, some of them wearing balaclavas, then ran upstairs and went from room to room, yelling "Yalla, Yalla" - "Go, go".
It is hard to argue with someone who is pointing a Kalashnikov at you, and so we went - waiting outside the Sea of Najaf hotel while the police fired a live volley over our heads. They then herded us on to a truck.
From there, I managed to phone London on my satellite phone and say: "We've been arrested ... "; unfortunately, the evil smurf then grabbed it.
The incident last Wednesday confirms an unwelcome truth: that despite the talk of democracy, Iraq's interim government shares many of the same authoritarian traits as its predecessor.
The new police force is very like the old one. The same Ba'athist instincts - to threaten and intimidate people who cause you embarrassment - appear to be alive and well.
Many of the rank-and-file police officers who served under Saddam Hussein are now back in uniform.
The only organisation that inspires any confidence is the Iraqi National Guard (ING) - the new Iraqi army that started patrolling the streets of Najaf last Friday.
So far Iraq's US-backed interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, himself a former Ba'athist, has offered no explanation or apology for last week's mass arrest, despite complaints from the Guardian, the BBC and other media organisations.
Asked over the weekend why the Iraqi police were behaving like the resistance, he chose to remain silent. One can only assume that, like others, he blames the media for the string of bad news stories coming out of Iraq.
But if the attitude of Iraq's interim rulers to the press was not bad enough, journalists operating in Iraq also face the constant threat of kidnapping. As the tragic case of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot shows, travelling out of Baghdad means risking your life.
The entire Sunni part of Iraq - towns such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Baquba - is now considered so dangerous that western reporters have simply stopped going there. The south is dangerous too; though Shia militant groups have so far refrained from executing westerners they have taken hostage.
Most American TV networks now rarely venture out of their Baghdad hotels. Last week not a single American TV reporter travelled to Najaf to cover the conflict there; instead the American networks prefer to "embed" with the US military, where the information on offer is, at best, one-sided.
By contrast, the British media emerged well from what was the biggest story in Iraq since the Abu Ghraib scandal, with all major British newspapers and the BBC represented in Najaf.
After having us dragged into his station at gunpoint, meanwhile, Najaf's police chief Ghalib al-Jazae'ri then gave us a classically neo-Ba'athist dressing down.
"You are not under arrest, but you will listen to us to see what disasters you have caused," he told us, before complaining about media coverage of the impending visit to Najaf of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
We had, he said, caused him lots of problems by reporting Mr Sistani's call for thousands of pilgrims to descend on Najaf.
But it wasn't our fault, we protested - Mr Sistani had, after all, said it.
Instead of arguing, though, we shut up, and emerged from the police station blinking into a twinkling night sky.
The evil smurf drove us home.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004