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Lara Logan Assault: For Female Reporters, the Added Peril of Turbulent Places

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Lara Logan appeared fearless and intrepid when she reported from war zones -- exactly what you want in a foreign correspondent.

The reporter "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating" while covering the celebration in Tahrir Square on Feb. 11, according to CBS News, Logan's employer. Egyptian women and soldiers rescued her from a hostile mob that had separated her from her film crew, and she is now in an American hospital recovering.

Logan's assault is a reminder that reporting is a dangerous business. According to Reporters Without Borders, five reporters have already been killed in 2011, and 152 are imprisoned. Since 1992, 850 reporters have been killed around the world.

But for women journalists, sexual assault and harassment add a dark undercurrent to the perils of the news business.

A 2007 article in the Columbia Journalism Review exploring the threats to female foreign correspondents singles out Egypt: "The Committee to Protect Journalists, for example, cites rape threats against female reporters in Egypt who were seen as government critics."

The CJR article states, "Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare." They face more sexual harassment and rape than their male counterparts. They are subjected to unwanted advances and "lewd come-ons . . . especially in places where Western women are viewed as promiscuous."

Such risk is nothing new to Logan. A South African native, she entered Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, by begging a Russian Embassy clerk in London to give her an expedited visa for travel there. She followed up that stint with one as an embedded journalist in Iraq.

Earlier this month, Logan and her crew were detained overnight by the Egyptian army and interrogated. She told Esquire's "The Politics Blog" that during the ordeal her captors blindfolded her and kept her upright. She vomited frequently. They finally gave her intravenous fluids and released her and her crew.

Logan's desire to venture into danger zones mirrors the brave actions of female war reporters who came before her. During World War II, many female correspondents had to write under male pseudonyms. They were banned from press briefings and had to submit stories after their male counterparts.

Dickey Chapelle was a World War II photojournalist, posted with the Marines during the Battle of Iwo Jima. She cultivated a signature look of fatigues, an Australian bush hat, dramatic Harlequin glasses and pearl earrings, but loved the grittiness of war. In 1956, the petite photographer covered the Hungarian Revolution, where she was captured and jailed for seven weeks.

In her forties, Chapelle covered the Vietnam War. In 1965, she was the first American female war correspondent killed in action. Famed war photographer Henri Huet photographed Chapelle receiving last rites. She was given a full Marine burial with six Marine honor guards.

Not much has changed in the way of training for such work. In the early days of war reporting, women wrote their own rules for covering conflict -- and for surviving. Surprisingly, even in the 21st century, many women travel to war zones with little training. The BBC is the only major news organization that offers special safety instruction for female journalists that is taught by women, according to CJR.

But training or precautions noted in the Handbook for Journalists may not have prepared Logan for the situation she faced on Friday. A mob of 200 abruptly surrounded her crew, from which she quickly became separated. Such tragedies are common during chaotic events.

In the hours after news broke of Logan's assault, many of her colleagues sent well wishes and prayers. The Committee to Protect Journalists chairman, Paul Steiger, said in a statement, "We have seen Lara's compassion at work while helping journalists who have faced brutal aggression while doing their jobs. She is a brilliant, courageous, and committed reporter." (Logan is a CPJ board member.)

But stupidity also flew on the Internet regarding the attack on Logan. Freelance journalist Nir Rosen, who has also covered the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, called her a "war monger" via Twitter and said she would become a martyr. He then attempted an apology but added, "I'm rolling my eyes at all the attention she will get." He later issued a more sincere apology. (All for naught, as it turns out. On Wednesday he resigned his position as a teaching fellow at New York University. An official at the school called his comments "insensitive and completely unacceptable.")

Good old-fashioned sexism and jealousy still rule, and it's especially true in the still mostly man's world of war reporting.

Lately, it's become much too common for comedians and pundits to criticize and taunt reporters. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter joked last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington that more reporters needed to be jailed. Sarah Palin often chides reporters and calls them "lame-stream media."

Perhaps those who engage in such sneering should walk a mile or two in Logan's combat boots.
Filed Under: Woman Up

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fight against women crises, lets try to put full stop for cruel treatment against women

March 07 2011 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Its a big bad world out there... people are sheltered and politically correct here in the States. Don't get me wrong.. this is the greatest place on the planet! I am sorry for Ms. Logan but out in the real world ..when you enter the lions den may get eaten!!! There is no tie score, focus groups, lawyers, or aclu out there! just ask the people on the Yacht I hope the best for her!

February 22 2011 at 10:43 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Why isn't this woman being interviewed now. Get pictures, make her tell her story. She wouldn't hesitate to do it to a rape victim. I want to know her story now, not when its old news. Another example of the "freedom of the press" being selective....what is free about that??????

February 22 2011 at 10:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I only read a few comments about the happening to Lora Logan . Some left me scheachless ! How can anyone be so mean to some one that stands up for us to be safe and to better understand .I felt insulted for her ,I thank her for all she took on for us .Thank you Lora Logan

February 19 2011 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
You've got IT!

I think it is horrible - what happened to her. I also think that she was not well-advised by her network to wear what she is seen wearing in this photograph. I was a 19 year old student in Cairo at the start of Mubarak's regime and we were all advised to keep our head covered (especially the blondes bc in Cairo only prostitutes have blonde hair and it sends a strong signal) and also to be covered up to the chin. What she is seen wearing in the photograph may have sent a strong signal to the crowd that she was available. They are largely an uneducated population and those in the square especially were riled up with mixed emotions. They may have attacked her in a full "jeluba" so I am not saying that her clothes alone caused any misfortune. But I do think it is prudent for foreigners to know exactly what the social mores of the visiting country are. The other day I told a visiting Italian teenager, who was considering inking AA on her shoulder, that in the U.S., AA is known as Alcoholics Anonymous and she was happy to know that before inking AA on her shoulder. She decided on A and a butterfly instead. Social mores and cultural differences must be learned and shared. I am surprised that her network didn't better inform her about covering her blonde hair and wearing a more conservative neckline. When I've seen other journalists reporting from that area, they are usually more covered up. I wish Lara Logan a speedy recovery.

February 19 2011 at 3:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The horrific suffering Ms. Logan has endured while risking her life to carry out our message to the world is a shame that we, each and every Egyptian, will carry till those soulless animals will be brought to the extremist of all justice. When the protestors risked their lives to fight for their freedom, for the first time, I was proud to be an Egyptian. After what happened to Ms. Logan, I am ashamed to be one. Those of us, Egyptians, who say that those soulless animals aren't Egyptians are wrong. They are Egyptians and there are so many of them on every corner of our beloved Egypt and over the years have victimized so many. So, Real Egyptians, WAKE UP and stop burying your heads in the sand and fight the real cancer in between us. I wish the sincerest apology on behalf of each one of us could turn back the time and make things right for Ms. Logan today. However, I am so profoundly sorry for the senseless crime that was committed against a courageous and just journalist and an honorable woman like Ms. Logan. My prayers will remain with her throughout her healing journey and until goodness truimphs over all evils.
An Egyptian Woman!

February 19 2011 at 2:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a Viet Nam vet, I have ambiguous feelings about reporters in war zones. First, my experience taught me the majority of them are there to capture only the tragedy of war...specifically, the civilian casualties...the overall blood & gore. Rarely, did we see the interaction with civilians, passing out food, and providing medical treatment...not sensational enough. Frankly, I think our chances of winning Viet Nam would have been greatly improved without a lot of those idiots. Reporters go into these environments at no less risk than our soldiers and should expect no special treatment. Soldiers have enough on their hands protecting themselves and each other. Women reporters are obviously at greater risk and if they're willing to take that be it. Some want to be "where the action is." And the result is that this woman was attacked in an area where we are hated, women are nothing more than doormats, stoned and beaten. Yet this reporter felt 'entitled" to return after being detained, blindfolded and abused only days before. Im sorry my "sympathy tokens" wont be used for her and her total lack of common sence. Dont walk into a burning building only to cry when you get burned. And what moron would look at this crowd and allow the mother of his kid and the love of his life to return to such a place??? Make you wonder about the mentality in this household.

February 18 2011 at 10:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

the network was idiotic for sending her into a Muslim, male dominated, bigoted society
And she was even more stupid for going
These media talking heads are starting to find out what the rest of the world has been experiencing for a very long time

February 18 2011 at 11:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Women reporting in malicious areas such as the middle east draws some hazard. Reporters should avert in dangerous scenarios such that of Lara Logan's case. Never mind loosing an acclaimed story. The statistics are too high, even from just this year.

February 18 2011 at 3:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sexual assault against women is a serious problem in the middle east AND in our own nation. College campuses are rife with ruffie-laden cocktails. Police and college administrators look the other way, with a wink and a nod to each other. In their minds, so called "sorostitutes" have it coming. Frat boys refer to frat girls as "slam-boxes". This points to a fundamental view of women as sexual objects and chattel more than forty years after "The Feminine Mystique" was published. What happened to Lara Logan is awful and should not happen to any human being. Sadly, it goes on in our own society as I write.

February 17 2011 at 8:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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