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Posted at 01:30 PM ET, 03/08/2012

On International Women’s Day, reflections from women journalists in war zones

Coinciding with International Women’s Day, a new book focuses on protecting women journalists around the world.
Lara Logan in Cairo's Tahrir Square. (CBS)

After last year’s sexual assault on CBS correspondent Lara Logan, the International News Safety Institute compiled a collection of moving essays written by 40 female reporters and photographers who cover civil unrest and have endured sexual harassment or attacks in more than a dozen countries, from Mexico and Burma to Russia and Somalia.

“No Woman’s Land — On the Frontlines with Female Reporters,” includes a foreword by Logan.

“I can’t feel them anymore. Their hands. The tearing. It is just the memory,” writes Logan in the opening pages. “But that’s enough. The memory and everything that comes with it.”

Logan was hospitalized after she was groped by a mob of men on Feb. 11, 2011, in Egypt, according to media interviews she gave after the assault. The incident took place as Logan was covering celebrations in Tahrir Square for “60 Minutes” shortly after the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak

Before the abuse on Logan, most female reporters said they didn’t speak out about sexual harassment or assaults because they feared their editors would see them as weak or in need of hand holding and take them off important stories.

As a former foreign correspondent for The Washington Post in Africa and South Asia, I would often hear women share safety tips about the importance of wearing a wedding ring — even if we weren’t married — or how to politely tell an overly attentive translator or source to stop bothering us. We would never approach editors about the problem. Instead, it was just a hurdle to overcome while reporting abroad.

Since Logan’s attack, sensitivity to sexual violence against journalists has improved in the news industry, a Committee to Protect Journalists follow-up survey this February found. Still the profession lacks training programs that address the risks in a meaningful way, it said.

“I think newsroom managers may have opened their ears, although I can’t say that journalists who have been sexually assaulted feel they can yet speak freely workout facing retribution,” said Lauren Wolfe, who conducted the survey for CPJ, but is now director of Women Under Siege, a Women’s Media Center project on sexualized violence in conflict, spearheaded by Gloria Steinem.

“No Woman’s Land” hopes to keep the conversation alive, said Hannah Storm, INSI deputy director who compiled and edited the book with her colleague Helena Williams.

“These are human stories — compelling, heart-rending, inspiring and harrowing — about wives, mothers and daughters who face huge danger to bring us the news,” Storm said.

The book was launched in London and contains safety advice and guidelines for women working in the field. The book can be purchased on the organization’s Web site. Proceeds will help female journalists working in dangerous situations, Storm said.

Contributors include the BBC’s Lyse Doucet and Caroline Wyatt, CNN’s Hala Gorani, Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin, al-Jazeera’s Zeina Awad and former Egyptian state TV anchor Shahira Amin.

By  |  01:30 PM ET, 03/08/2012

Tags:  World, International Women's Day, journalist safety, women

 
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