By Joe Mandese

Few publishing models elicit as much mixed emotion among news publishers as “paywalls.” On one hand, they indicate a journalist’s content is so valuable people are willing to pay to read it. On the other hand, the fact that many people will not limits the potential audience that will be reached by it. But how many journalists can say it actually saved their life.

That’s what Harper’s stringer Anand Gopal says happened when he was on a freelance assignment for the magazine in Kandahar, and was stopped by militiamen asking for proof he was a bona fide journalist on assignment for the magazine.

“I spent hours trying to convince a gunman that I was a journalist, not a spy or ISIS operative, when he finally asked to see the last article I’d written,” Gopal writes in a first-person account of the incident on the Overseas Press Club of America’s website, adding, “This happened to be the Harper’s piece on Kandahar’s murderous U.S.-backed forces – not exactly the type of story I wanted these murderous U.S.-backed forces to associate me with.”

Gopal says he tried to “dissuade” him from searching for his article online, but as luck would have it, the gunman was unable to access it because of’s paywall.

“I’d never been so grateful for a paywall,” Gopal confides.

Joe Mandese is editor in chief of MediaPost.