Paris: Press watchdog Reporters without
Borders urged media organizations on Friday to take care to
protect female reporters from sexual assault while covering
unrest in Egypt, following several serious attacks.
The group initially warned women journalists not to work
in Cairo`s Tahrir Square, epicentre of the revolt against
Egypt`s junta, at all, but after protests from press unions
decided instead to advise great caution.
"It is more dangerous for a woman than a man to cover the
demonstrations in Tahrir Square. That is the reality and the
media must face it," RSF said.
"It is the first time that there have been repeated
sexual assaults against women reporters in the same place. The
media must keep this in mind when sending staff there and must
take special safety measures.
"We are not saying the international media should pull
out and stop covering events in Egypt, but they need to adapt
to the threats that currently exist. Women journalists going
to Tahrir Square should be aware of this situation."
For the past week Tahrir Square has seen mass protests
and violent clashes between regime forces and pro-democracy
campaigners demanding an end to trial by military tribunal and
a faster transition to civilian rule.
Yesterday, French television reporter Caroline Sinz from
the state network France 3 was subjected to a violent sexual
assault by a gang of young men and boys and her cameraman was
beaten as they tried to cover the revolt.
The attacks came shortly after Egyptian-American
journalist Mona Eltahawy reported that she had been the victim
of a grotesque sexual assault by police after she was arrested
during the protests.
Both cases recalled the February 11 sexual assault on
South African CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who was seized by
a mob as she worked in the square.
Several other women, both Egyptian and foreign, have
complained of sexual aggression from both protesters and
According to a study carried out in 2008 by the Egyptian
Centre for Women`s Rights, more than 80 per cent of Egyptian
women suffer sexual assault or harassment ranging from remarks
to leering, half of them on daily basis.
In an initial statement issued late yesterday, Reporters
Without Borders had called on media organisations to
temporarily stop sending women to cover the street fighting,
but this advice was later withdrawn.
The journalism branch of France`s CGT union argued that
editors should not decide which reporters to assign to stories
based on their gender nor give in to those who would limit
women "to the role of wife or mother".