Violence Against Journalists

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In the Fall 2011 issue of American Journalism Review, the article titled “Out of the Shadows” stood out to me for its shocking coverage of sexual violence against journalists–women AND men.

Being a journalist is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, especially for international correspondents. The article discusses the high-profile case of Lara Logan in Egypt but also Umar Cheema, a Pakistani political reporter who was kidnapped and sodomized in Isllamabad.

The Committee to Protect Journalists put out a report in june and the article said that the torture of a male journalist like Cheema was extremely rare. Lauren Wolfe, the senior editor and author of the report, also researched how frequent sexual violence was against journalists. Even though sexual abuse and sex crimes are hardly reported out of fear or shame, Wolfe received responses from over four dozen journalists.

I find it so sickening that sex is used as a tool of terror and that honest, hardworking media professionals are subjected to such violence while on the job. The article mentions that journalists don’t report violence because they fear being a “failure in the job or experiencing a career setback.”

But what kind of support does the media industry have to help journalists who have experienced trauma and abuse? Wolfe investigated six or seven news organizations about their policies and found they either had nothing substantial or answered  that they always trained reporters for all situations.

I was glad to hear there are groups like the International News Safety Institute, Reporters Without Borders and South Asian Women in Media, but I wonder what other kind of training is necessary for journalists to be properly prepared. Mandatory self-defense classes, maybe?