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Press Freedom News and Views

Lauren Wolfe

Lauren Wolfe is the director of Women Under Siege, a project on sexualized violence and conflict at the Women's Media Center. While CPJ's senior editor, she wrote the CPJ report, "The Silencing Crime: Sexual Violence and Journalists." Previously, she was a researcher on two New York Times books on the 9/11 attacks.

2011



As I read the account of Saeeda Siabi in an Iranian prison it became hard for me to breathe. Her descriptions of being raped in front of her 4-month-old son stopped the air in my chest. "They took me to a torture room and tied me to a bed," she said. "I was wounded and injured, but I forgot about wounds and injuries. I thought I was fainting."

The depiction of the violence endured by Siabi--an Iranian housewife imprisoned for more than four years because of her politically active family--must be read in its entirety to fully appreciate. But it also must be read to understand what has happened to thousands of women and men held, like her, in fetid Iranian jails over decades. Journalists, activists, bloggers--these political prisoners have suffered torture on a nightmarish scale.

We write a lot at CPJ about the terrible things that happen to journalists because of their reporting, but we don't often get a chance to show you what happens to them after they are forced to flee their homes and land abroad. This video, about three such journalists, is worth watching.

Lynsey Addario said at Columbia University that her ordeal was no worse than her male colleagues'. (Rebecca Castillo)

New York Times photographer Lynsey Addario is speaking publicly about sexual aggression she experienced while detained in Libya last month by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi. Addario was held for six days with Times colleagues Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell, and Tyler Hicks, all of whom were subjected to physical abuse. In this interview with CPJ, Addario speaks candidly about the brutality, focusing particularly on the groping and other sexual aggression she endured. Farrell, her colleague, also spoke briefly with CPJ. All forms of anti-press violence are abhorrent, but the issue of sexual aggression has not been as widely documented or discussed as other types of attacks. Since CBS News disclosed in February that correspondent Lara Logan was brutally beaten and sexually assaulted while on assignment in Cairo, more journalists are starting to speak out in hopes the issue can be more fully understood. Here is Addario's story:

Last week, I spoke on a CBC program called "The Current" about journalists and sexual assault. Another panelist on the show, Columbia University professor Judith Matloff, noted there are some published lists of tips for female journalists that could be useful in dangerous situations. Here are a few:

Jineth Bedoya takes notes in December 2000 under the watch of a bodyguard in Bogotá in an armored car after she was kidnapped, beaten, and raped in April that year. (AP/Ariana Cubillos)

The news of the sexual assault against CPJ board member and CBS correspondent Lara Logan hit us hard on Tuesday. At CPJ, we work daily to advocate on behalf of journalists under attack in all kinds of horrific situations around the world. Because of Lara's untiring work with our Journalist Assistance program, she's well known to everyone on our staff.

When Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter Robert Tait was taken into custody by Egyptian authorities at a police checkpoint near central Cairo on February 4, he didn't know he'd become witness to torture. But, cuffed and blindfolded for 28 hours, Tait heard and saw beatings and electrocutions. "My experience, while highly personal, wasn't really about me or the foreign media," Tait writes in the U.K. Guardian. " It was about gaining an insight--if that is possible behind a blindfold--into the inner workings of the Mubarak regime." It is exactly that kind of insight that can be gained when reporters are allowed to do their jobs, and it is why CPJ exists--to fiercely defend the rights of journalists to do their work. Take a read of our recent Egypt coverage here to get a sense of the massive scale in which journalists have been attacked and detained, and see Tait's whole piece in the Guardian here.

Riot police clash with protesters in Cairo today. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

As anti-government demonstrations continue in Cairo, Jack Shenker, a reporter for the U.K. Guardian, has captured some remarkable audio. Shenker, dragged around, punched and abused, was taken into a security truck with protesters on Tuesday night--then he turned on his recorder. He describes how "police have been incredibly violent" and how in the hot, tightly packed truck, several people fainted. Click here to hear his story.

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