By Clarence Page
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Every year, The Committee to Protect Journalists releases “Attacks on the Press,” a book-length analysis of which countries are abusing journalists the most. This year is different. In response to growing concerns, the new “Attacks” is focused on sexualized violence, online harassment and other intersections of gender and press freedom. In addition, women leaders in the field of journalism are sharing their experiences to bring these attacks out the of the shadows.
Five years have passed since CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by a mob of crazed men, and rescued by a small group of brave Egyptian women, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship.
The widespread coverage given to that attack brought a new focus to a growing problem that had been looming in the shadows for years: sexual assault against journalists.
In the first four months after Logan’s attack, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists interviewed more than four dozen journalists who had undergone sexual violence. The offenses ranged in severity from gang-rape to aggressive groping by multiple attackers.
Unfortunately, the usual conflict between safety and press freedom on such assignments is complicated by the double-bind in which many female journalists find themselves: They want the dangers of sexual violence to be acknowledged, but they don’t want that knowledge to give their editors cold feet about sending women on dangerous assignments.
New York Times reporter Kim Barker, for example, whose war memoir, “The Taliban Shuffle,” has been turned into a Tina Fey movie, recalled in a 2011 ProPublica essay how she was grabbed and groped as a Chicago Tribune reporter in Pakistan in 2007.
“I knew other female correspondents who weren’t so lucky, those who were molested in their hotel rooms, or partly stripped by mobs,” she wrote. “But I can’t ever remember sitting down with my female peers and talking about what had happened, except to make dark jokes, because such stories would make us seem different from the male correspondents, more vulnerable.”