New report on sexual violence against journalists

This past winter, when news broke about reporter Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Egypt, Ann wrote that Logan’s decision to make the incident public was extremely personally and professionally brave, given the silence around sexual assault of journalists. Now, it seems it’s helped to break that silence in a pretty big way.

Yesterday, the Committee to Protect Journalists released a special report, “The silencing crime: Sexual violence and journalists.” Over the last four months since Logan spoke out, CPJ has interviewed more than four dozen journalists, mainly women but also men, who’ve experienced various forms of sexual violence, from groping to gang rape, while on the job in countries across the world.

“Most of the individuals interviewed by CPJ have not previously disclosed their experiences beyond speaking with friends or family. Journalists from all over the world said they largely kept assaults to themselves because of broad cultural stigmas and a lack of faith that authorities would act upon their complaints. But time and again, journalists also said that professional considerations played an important role; many were reluctant to disclose an assault to their editors for fear they would be perceived as vulnerable and be denied future assignments.

As a result, little documentation exists on the topic of sexual aggression against journalists. While CPJ and other international groups have reported individual instances of sexual assault over the years, the kind of methodological research that charts other anti-press attacks, such as murders and imprisonments, has yet to be conducted.”

The assaults described by the journalists interviewed in the report mainly fell into three categories: “targeted sexual violation of specific journalists, often in reprisal for their work; mob-related sexual violence against journalists covering public events; and sexual abuse of journalists in detention or captivity.”

Importantly, the report explicitly frames sexual assault as a type of violence that–like beatings, torture, and imprisonment–is a threat to the freedom of the press. “Sexual attacks against journalists have the effect of silencing the messenger and blocking the dissemination of news and information.” Freedom of expression, not just feminism, requires working to keep all journalists safe from sexual violence.

As a good first step, CPJ has added an addendum to its security guide on ways to minimize the risk of sexual assault in the field. (Some news organizations, such as NBC, have also started including information on sexual assault to their trainings.) And this report will provide the foundation for a longer survey they will conduct in the coming year–which will hopefully shine even more light on this “dark, largely unexplored corner.”

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