Brutal Assault on CBS's Lara Logan in Egypt Shows Risks to Female Reporters

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CBS News issued a chilling statement Tuesday about a horrific attack on one of its correspondents while she was reporting from Egypt last week:

On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS Correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a 60 MINUTES story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into a frenzy.

In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and Correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

Most mainstream American news outlets have a policy of not naming the survivors of sexual assault and it is hard to imagine that CBS would have issued this statement, which landed like a thunderbolt in the close-knit media world, without Logan's permission. That makes her one very brave woman, as news of the attack ricocheted across Twitter and newspapers with lightning speed.

The Columbia Journalism Review in 2007 published a lengthy look at the risk of sexual assault and harassment female foreign correspondents face while on assignment overseas. Its lede describes a situation that sounds similar to that faced by Logan, though with a quicker intervention from Good Samaritans:

The photographer was a seasoned operator in South Asia. So when she set forth on an assignment in India, she knew how to guard against gropers: dress modestly in jeans secured with a thick belt and take along a male companion. All those preparations failed, however, when an unruly crowd surged and swept away her colleague. She was pushed into a ditch, where several men set upon her, tearing at her clothes and baying for sex. They ripped the buttons off her shirt and set to work on her trousers.

"My first thought was my cameras," recalls the photographer, who asked to remain anonymous. "Then it was, 'Oh my God, I'm going to be raped.' " With her faced pressed into the soil, she couldn't shout for help, and no one would have heard her anyway above the mob's taunts. Suddenly a Good Samaritan in the crowd pulled the photographer by the camera straps several yards to the feet of some policemen who had been watching the scene without intervening. They sneered at her exposed chest, but escorted her to safety.

CJR doesn't have the whole thing online but a full version of the story can be read via this PDF (via @lizzieohreally).

Politico notes that Logan, who was detained with her crew in Egypt earlier in the month and forced to leave the country, went back out of a sense of personal obligation to tell the story of the uprising:

TIME magazine reported on February 3 that Logan was detained and, on February 7, she told Charlie Rose that she was accused of being a spy.

"There was no question after what we were subjected to that we were not safe and were, were now targeted," said Logan, adding that that "can very easily get you killed and you better take it seriously."

Still, she told that she was disappointed in herself as a journalist over the episode and upset that she was unable to keep reporting.

"It's very hard for me to be away from this story," said Logan. "I feel in one sense like a failure professionally. I feel like I failed because I didn't deliver and I take that responsibility very seriously. ... Fundamentally it is in my blood to be there and to be on the streets and to be listening to people and to do the best reporting that I can."

"You try to be smart about these things and, yes, I would go back. It would depend entirely on the circumstances."
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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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