Tuesday 7 June 2011

CPJ report: Sexual assaults against journalists

Few cases of sexual assault against journalists have ever been documented because of powerful cultural and professional stigmas, but now dozens are coming forward to say they have been sexually abused in the course of their work, according to a special report from the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

The report, by Lauren Wolfe, says the vicious sexual assault of CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo in February has brought the issue into sharp focus, prompting journalists worldwide to begin speaking out in numbers previously unknown.

Over the past four months, CPJ has interviewed more than four dozen journalists who have undergone varying degrees of sexual violence—from rape by multiple attackers to aggressive groping—either in retaliation for their work or during the course of their reporting. They include 27 local journalists working in regions from the Middle East to South Asia, Africa to the Americas.

Five described being brutally raped, while others reported various levels of sexual assault, aggressive physical harassment, and threats of sexual violence. A similar range of experience was reported by 25 international journalists; two reported being raped, five others described serious sexual violation—ranging from violent, sexual touching, to penetration by hands—and 22 said they had been groped multiple times. Most of the reported attacks occurred within the past five years, although a small number of cases date back as far as two decades.

Many of the assaults fall into three general types: 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.

Although women constitute the large majority of victims overall, male journalists have also been victimized, most often while in captivity or detention, the report says.

Most of the individuals interviewed by the 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.

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