Lara Logan’s assault in Cairo

Veteran CBS correspondent Lara Logan is broadcaster’s chief foreign correspondent and has reported extensively from the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq, sometimes  coming under fire while embedded with U.S. military units. On the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power, Feb. 11, she was attacked and sexually assaulted by a mob in Cairo.

CBS released a statement on Tuesday reading:

“In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently home recovering.

“There will be no further comment from CBS News and correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.”

This wasn’t Logan’s first ordeal in Cairo. Only eight days prior on Feb. 3, she was  detained overnight by Egyptian police. She left the country, but returned on Feb. 10 to continue to cover the protests. Logan recounted her experience in this video for CBS.

She returned to Egypt to interview Google executive Wael Ghonim, who played a key role in organizing the uprising that led to Mubarak’s ouster. The interview was for the program 60 Minutes, and reporter Harry Smith wound up conducting it instead.

As word of Logan’s attack spread online, writer and filmmaker Nir Rosen – who has worked extensively in the Middle East – sent out several disparaging tweets about the attack. A sampling of his tweets include:

“Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal.”

“look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse than i’m sorry.”

Rosen later apologized (on Anderson Cooper’s show, no less), and the public outcry to his remarks caused him to resign from his position as a fellow at NYU’s Center for Law and Justice. He lamented the fact in a post for Salon called “How 480 characters unraveled my career.”

Many journalists have been targeted while covering the protests by pro-government protesters. The New York Times blog Media Decoder cites a document from the Committee to Protect Journalists, whose board Logan currently sits on, which logs 53 registered assaults on journalists so far in Cairo. The Globe and Mail’s Sonia Verma’s Twitter account became a “virtual lifeline for her” — driving through Cairo, she was stopped at a checkpoint, surrounded by secret police and had her vehicle commandeered. She twittered updates surreptitiously from the back seat.

Unfortunately, female correspondents also face sexual harassment. Last month, J-Source wrote about Mother Jones writer Mac McClelland’s experience in Haiti. While covering the aftermath of the country’s earthquake, she received sexual threats from the man she had hired to drive her around.

Following the G20 summit in Toronto last June, Canadian journalist Amy Miller reported that she was repeatedly threatened with rape by police while in detention. “I was told I was to get gang banged. I was told that I was never going to want to act as a journalist again by making sure I was going to be repeatedly raped while I was in jail,” she told journalists in a press scrum.

In her article for the Columbia Journalism Review, titled “Foreign correspondents and sexual abuse: the case for restraint,” journalist Judith Matloff wrote that foreign correspondents rarely tell anyone about sexual harassment that occurs on the job, even if they have been raped.   

“The shame runs so deep — and the fear of being pulled off an assignment, especially in a time of shrinking
 budgets, is so strong — that no one wants intimate violations to resound in a newsroom,” Matloff wrote.

Matloff spoke with senior newswomen who admitted that they didn’t want to be seen as special cases for fear that they would be considered weak, or that it would hinder future assignments.

As Chris Jones of Esquire magazine wrote on his blog, “[Logan] was brave to go, and she was braver still to tell us what happened there – first to Egypt and Egyptians, and especially now, to her.”

* Photo courtesy of CBS