Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Happened to Lara Logan - In Her Own Words

UPDATE:  Since the post below, Lara Logan appeared, after recovering privately with her family, on the CBS news show "60 Minutes" for an extended interview, explaining in detail exactly what happened to her in Tahrir Square.

Her interview was an extremely important moment in the long history of harassment and assault of women everywhere, in any conceivable circumstance.  She has the privilege of breaking the silence.

By reading the transcript of her interview you will no doubt remember experiences you have had as a woman and probably said nothing about.  Lara's voice can show the rest of us that speaking up is possible, and we need to do it to move the world closer to a place where women are safe in public.  I don't know of any place that has achieved that goal yet.

PREVIOUS POST:  Experienced CBS journalist Lara Logan made news herself recently when she was grabbed out of Tahrir Square, where she was reporting with her team on the political protests for Egyptian President Mubarak's removal, by a bunch of "youths" who ripped her clothes off, beat her, and attempted to rape her.  The reason the picture at left is the one you might have seen associated with this story is that the attack occurred moments after the picture was taken.

CBS issued a statement at the time, but WNL has been waiting to hear from Lara herself.  In this article for South African news service IOL, she tells not only the whole story of what what happened, but also describes a previous incident when she and the crew were detained by Egyptian militia.

IOL reporter Liz Clarke includes a bio of Lara, who is from South Africa, with examples of her persistence in being at the scene of world events, taking danger in stride.  She concludes by making the point that this attack isn't about Lara in particular, her blondness, or whether or not she should have been there - obviously she has the chops - but about the threats against journalists who try to get the news of revolution out to the world.
This week, the US Committee to Protect Journalists told the UN that attacks on press personnel had “reached alarming levels” and that leading international bodies - including the UN - had failed to consistently come to their defence.
“With the example of Egypt fresh in our minds, it is a pivotal moment to focus public attention on the importance of press freedom,” said Paul Steiger, chairman of the group. - Sunday Argus
WNL comments:  While I appreciate Liz Clarke's point that journalists in general are in danger, Sabrina Tavernise and Kim Barker, both writing pieces for The New York Times, have more to say about what is involved in what Sabrina calls "reporting while female".

Lara Logan's officially noticed assault stimulates her to explain "women reporters face another set of challenges. We are often harassed in ways that male colleagues are not. This is a hazard of the job that most of us have experienced and few of us talk about."  She recounts a page-full of close calls we would never have known about if the subject hadn't come up because of Lara's experience.

Kim Barker makes some very important points for those of us who watch the news under the headline "Why We Need Women in War Zones".  After recounting some of her own experiences, Kim says
...The Committee to Protect Journalists may be able to say that 44 journalists from around the world were killed last year because of their work, but the group doesn’t keep data on sexual assault and rape. Most journalists just don’t report it.
The CBS correspondent Lara Logan has broken that code of silence. She has covered some of the most dangerous stories in the world, and done a lot of brave things in her career. But her decision to go public earlier this week with her attack by a mob in Tahrir Square in Cairo was by far the bravest. Hospitalized for days, she is still recuperating from the attack, described by CBS as a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.
Several commentators have suggested that Ms. Logan was somehow at fault: because she’s pretty; because she decided to go into the crowd; because she’s a war junkie. This wasn’t her fault. It was the mob’s fault. This attack also had nothing to do with Islam. Sexual violence has always been a tool of war. Female reporters sometimes are just convenient.
In the coming weeks, I fear that the conclusions drawn from Ms. Logan’s experience will be less reactionary but somehow darker, that there will be suggestions that female correspondents should not be sent into dangerous situations. It’s possible that bosses will make unconscious decisions to send men instead, just in case. Sure, men can be victims, too — on Wednesday a mob beat up a male ABC reporter in Bahrain, and a few male journalists have told of being sodomized by captors — but the publicity around Ms. Logan’s attack could make editors think, “Why take the risk?” That would be the wrong lesson. Women can cover the fighting just as well as men, depending on their courage.
More important, they also do a pretty good job of covering what it’s like to live in a war, not just die in one. Without female correspondents in war zones, the experiences of women there may be only a rumor.
Look at the articles about women who set themselves on fire in Afghanistan to protest their arranged marriages, or about girls being maimed by fundamentalists, about child marriage in India, about rape in Congo and Haiti. Female journalists often tell those stories in the most compelling ways, because abused women are sometimes more comfortable talking to them. And those stories are at least as important as accounts of battles.

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