New Internationalist

Of press freedom and sexual assault

The girl in her teens met the man on Facebook. They became ‘friends’. They chatted and they started ‘liking’ the same stuff.

And then they met. He gave her a drink.

The next day, she found herself stripped naked, in a daze, half awake and now a hapless rape victim. So goes the news on the morning radio programme.

I was on the road and the news nearly stopped me on my tracks.

Stories of rape and sexual abuse are as numerous as they are evil. And sometimes I would just find myself sobbing uncontrollably when I would hear or read about such stuff. This is what happened the first time I read the story of veteran war journalist Lara Logan of CBS.

Logan, according to news reports, was sexually assaulted and raped by a hysterical mob in Cairo, Egypt. I don’t know Logan and have not had the chance to follow her stories or her career in broadcasting, but anyone who feels strongly against violence against women will sympathize with her and will be outraged.

But evil deeds against women happen. It’s a fact and a stark reality. And unfortunately, they mean no more than the brutal acts that they are in contrast to the assertion of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). 

In a special report, the CPJ asserts that brutal acts against women are the silencing crime against female journalists. I’d say, yes they could be, but I strongly believe that generally, it has nothing to do with press freedom and if it does, it’s more an exception than the rule.

Logan suffered in the hands of the mob in Cairo not because the perpetrators wanted to silence her. I will bet my life that it’s more because at that exact moment, the mob – which has a mind of its own – happened to want to sexually assault a woman. That minute. That moment. And it was Lara who happened to be there.

Sexual assault on women happens everywhere around the world, every second and every minute. It is not limited to journalists. Some men do it for the plain and simple yet unexplainable fact that they are evil.

It’s not an attack against press freedom. It’s an attack against women. And the perpetrator can be anyone – including that ‘friend’ from Facebook.

In closing, I would like to share a list of preventive measures in danger zones from a BBC article published after Lara’s attack:

Wear a sturdy belt
Don’t wear a ponytail or necklace that can be grabbed
Don’t take hotel rooms with balconies or easily accessible windows
Keep a can of deodorant by the bed
Move furniture in front of hotel room doors
Don’t drink alcohol alone with men, particularly in the Middle East
Carry a rape whistle
Take male colleagues with you in volatile situations
Tell an assailant that your are HIV positive, pregnant or menstruating
Urinate, vomit or defecate on yourself

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