Journalist speak out over sexual assaults in the course of reporting

Many journalists have been sexually assaulted while in the process of covering a story. In the past most journalists have calmed up over such attacks, but now more reports are coming to light about about the serious dangers journalists have faced while on the job.

In a recent report from the American Journalism Review titled, Out of the Shadows, the topic of sexual abuse of both male and female journalists was discussed using the high profile cases of Umar Cheema, a political reporter for the International News in Pakistan, CBS’ foreign correspondent Lara Logan, and  New York Times photographer Lynsey Addario.  Cheema was raped and tortured by people who did not want his reporting to be shared with the public. Both Logan and Addario were attacked while reporting on location.

The use of sexual assault as a way to torture journalists is a continuing crime that goes mostly unreported. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) referred to it as a “silencing crime” in one of their reports.  Many journalists are afraid to come out about being sexually assaulted because they do not want to be removed from the tough stories, according to Helen Benedict, a Columbia University professor who specializes in studying rape and women in the military.

An investigation by the CPJ revealed that one of the reasons many journalists may not speak up when being sexually abused is because most of the major news networks do not have services to offer to victims. Sending journalists into hostile environments leaves them at risk of dangers such as sexual assault, and the networks should have services to address these dangers and possible repercussions.

With the coming out of the three high profile cases, more journalists, who were assaulted, have also shared their stories with the CPJ. “The more I reached out, the more it cascaded. I was amazed,” says Lauren Wolfe, who conducted interviews with more than four dozen journalists “from the Middle East to South Asia, Africa to the Americas,” the CPJ report says.

Should more be done to help journalists who have been the victims of sexual assault? What kind of things could the networks do to keep journalists safe in dangerous environments?

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2 Comments on “Journalist speak out over sexual assaults in the course of reporting”

  1. It’s a tough issue, isn’t it? It’s hard to know what measures you can take to protect journalists further as getting a story often entails speaking to people in secret and going into dangerous places. Maybe further training could be helpful. Perhaps all courses should offer sessions on self-defence and awareness?

  2. baelaboo says:

    I had no idea that this was going on. It really opens your eyes up to the dangers journalists face. At a glance it seems like journalism is a safe and respected profession, but really it’s not. We’re not professionals by definition and we are often resented by a faction of the public, and because of the nature of the job we aren’t always respected. But the fact that sexual assault is used against us is a very intimidating and alarming. The knowledge that a number of journalists have faced this horrible reality, and not reported it, and continued with their professions just shows how dedicated a person can be to their trade. Their bravery and perseverance are very respectable, but this really should not be going on.


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