Women, Journalism, and Violence in the Middle East

The Grey Lady reports on the Egyptian demonstrators’ assault on Laura Logan in Tahrir Square last month and the issue of both violence against women and against journalists in the Middle East (except, of course, Israel, which despite being better by far on these issues, is somehow viewed as worse). Logan shows great courage in discussing these matters, even if she reveals an amazing naivete. (HT: NBH)

CBS Reporter Recounts a ‘Merciless’ Assault

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Lara Logan, a CBS News reporter, was sexually assaulted while working in Cairo on Feb. 11.

By 
Published: April 28, 2011
Her experience in Cairo underscored the fact that female journalists often face a different kind of violence. While other forms of physical violence affecting journalists are widely covered — the traumatic brain injurysuffered by the ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff in Iraq in 2006 was a front-page story at that time — sexual threats against women are rarely talked about within journalistic circles or in the news media.

There are huge areas of violence and intimidation against journalists that are not reported. We didn’t hear for months that NYT reporter David Rhode had been kidnapped in Afghanistan; and we don’t have any idea how often reporters are abducted in places like Iraq, Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories, etc., for a few hours and then released, thoroughly intimidated (including about speaking about what happened) into the mainstream pool to then report back to us about “what’s going on.”

… Little research has been conducted about the prevalence of sexual violence affecting journalists in conflict zones. But in the weeks following Ms. Logan’s assault, other women recounted being harassed and assaulted while working overseas, and groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists said they would revise th eir handbooks to better address sexual assault.

This is the tip of the iceberg of violence and threats of violence against journalists in the Middle East. Maybe because it intersects with gender issues it will get more attention.

Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” said that the segment about the assault on Ms. Logan would raise awareness of the issue. “There’s a code of silence about it that I think is in Lara’s interest and in our interest to break,” he said.

That would be omertà. something that’s very hard to break, but well worth tackling for the sake of an honest news media.

… She declined to go into more detail about the assault but said: “What really struck me was how merciless they were. They really enjoyed my pain and suffering. It incited them to more violence.”

If this were not the words of a woman who had been mercilessly manhandled (not personhandled), this might strike some neo-progs as racist and dehumanizing. My students regularly mistake human and humane, as in, “I prefer Browning’s account of the Nazi genocide to Goldhagen’s, because Browning doesn’t dehumanize the Germans.” Somehow, they forget that sadism is a peculiarly human trait.

While Ms. Logan, CBS’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, said she would definitely return to Afghanistan and other conflict zones, she said she had decided — for the moment — not to report from the Middle Eastern countries where protests were widespread. “The very nature of what we do — communicating information — is what’s undoing these regimes,” she said. “It makes us the enemy, whether we like it or not.”

Indeed, any time your report the truth from the Middle East, you are the enemy, whether you like it or not. And there’s no loyalty involved. The protesters may like you because the truth happens to favor their side, but once the truth is inimicable to their  side, any reporter who insists on being loyal to his or her audience in the free world (i.e., who insists on reporting the truth), becomes an enemy.

Before the assault, Ms. Logan said, she did not know about the levels of harassment and abuse that women in Egypt and other countries regularly experienced. “I would have paid more attention to it if I had had any sense of it,” she said.

This statement testifies to one of two things (or both). Either she has not been paying attention, or there’s a pattern of omertà in journalistic milieux that systematically understates these issues. My guess is, it participates in a larger pattern of refusal to recognize these issues, which reflects a self-censoring political correctness and a fear of being called racist. The feminist version of Human Rights Complex.

“When women are harassed and subjected to this in society, they’re denied an equal place in that society. Public spaces don’t belong to them. Men control it. It reaffirms the oppressive role of men in the society.”

Logan writes this as if the norm is equal rights and the Egyptians are violating it, rather than that the norm is unequal rights – especially in public places - and the West has violated it by inaugurating an unprecedented, precious, and vulnerable time of equal rights. The Westerner takes his or her free condition as the norm and shows surprise when it’s not true everywhere. Omertà has an ally in liberal cognitive egocentrism.

Notes my correspondent, Noa Ben Harav:

If she was sent there without explicit briefings about this kind of activity then the news agencies are really failing. They are even deluding themselves that this is not ‘insider information.’ Obviously reporters are not doing their job if this is something that they are unaware of. Even my guide book told me about harassment in Muslim countries like Turkey and Morocco. I’m not blaming her, obviously. But how could the community of journalists be so remiss as to ignore the state of affairs, talk in grandiose terms about gender equality during the revolution and send their people in unprepared and unguarded to a situation like this?

One possible answer is that the journalists were so swept up with Arab Spring Fever that they thought the normal rules of engagement had been suspended, and people in Tahrir Square would be every bit as respectful as, say, the million people Promise-Keeper march on Washington (1997).

Read the whole article.

30 Responses to Women, Journalism, and Violence in the Middle East

  1. sshender says:

    Coincidentally, Honest Reporting Canada has just released a video specifically dealing with the topic of journalistic oppression in the middle east:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziEuudqRnv4

  2. E.G. says:

    O/T – Breaking news

    A Jewish French publication (Actualité Juive) was found guilty of libel by a French court in Paris today. Dr. David Yehuda, who asserted the scars of Jamal al-Dura were caused by an attack in 1992 and the surgery he did to repair the damage in 1994 (and not by the IDF at Netzarim Junction in 2000), as well as the journalist and the journal, have been found guilty of defamation by the court (the same one that judged Karsenty).

    Article (in French) with the link to the court’s decision:
    http://www.rue89.com/2011/02/09/dix-ans-apres-laffaire-al-dura-dechire-encore-une-famille-juive-189703

    The good news is that at least this online publication publishes the story.
    Maariv online and Ynet (in Hebrew) report that Dr. Yehuda plans to appeal.

    • Ray in Seattle says:

      I saw this article earlier this morning from a J-Post “Breaking News” item. The J-Post article states that the Dr. says he treated Jama al Dura for injury to his hand sustained by gunfire from the IDF. As I recall from earlier reports during the al Dura / Karsentry trial – reported and commented extensively at this blog – he said he treated Jamal for multiple knife wounds supposedly sustained in a disagreement with other Arabs.

      Am I confusing two different events? Does anyone else recall the “multiple knife wounds” report from earlier?

    • oao says:

      I saw that and I am not surprised.

      Did you think that if Karsenty won that would be the end of it?

    • Ray in Seattle says:

      Yes, but it was axes rather than knives.

      http://www.jihadwatch.org/2007/12/mohammed-al-duras-father-was-treated-in-1994-for-wounds-he-claimed-to-receive-from-israeli-bullets-i.html

      According to the Metula release, Jamal al Dura declared on medical records in 1992 that Palestinian militia had attacked him with axes. Doctors at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital* were able to save his life but he lost the use of his right hand because they could not repair a ruptured tendon in the forearm. Palestinian doctors referred Jamal to Tal Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv in March 1994. Dr. Yehuda performed reconstructive surgery, grafting a tendon taken from the foot, and restoring almost normal use of the hand. The medical record of that operation also refers to the removal of “foreign bodies,” suggesting that other instruments besides axes were used in the 1992 attack.

      • Ray in Seattle says:

        They convicted him of defamation? Are there no laws against conspiracy and forgery of medical records in France?

        With such specific testimony by the Dr. corroborated by medical records apparently produced at the time – to now reach a defamation conviction against Dr. Yehuda seems bizarre to say the least.

        Either Yehuda was involved in a rather complex conspiracy and forgery of medical records – or the French justice system is far more deranged and corrupt than even I imagined.

        Something really smells here.

        • oao says:

          or the French justice system is far more deranged and corrupt than even I imagined.

          Nobody has that kind of imagination.

  3. sshender says:

    Esther Shapira just made a new documentary about the Al-Dura case which features extensive interviews by Dr. Yehuda to the effect that the injuries were in fact caused by Arabs.

    I have the documentary, which is in German with Hebrew subtitles, and can upload it somewhere if there is demand for it here…

    • oao says:

      Yes, it should be disseminated by bloggers

    • E.G. says:

      Please do.

    • Ray in Seattle says:

      That would be good. I can use my Google translator. Thanks

      • sshender says:

        How can you translate the video using it? The subs are embedded in the video.

        Let me know if you need any particular parts and I will translate them for you.

        • Ray in Seattle says:

          Oh yeah. I didn’t think about the text being embedded. Thanks for the offer though. After watching the first few minutes I think I’ll wait for the English translation – or just follow the comments if that’s not happening.

          • sshender says:

            It is dubious that Schapira does not produce English dubbed replicas for wider circulation. She seems to be well versed in English (check out the interview with her at the end – it is in English) and it’s so easy I can do it.

            Actually, maybe I will…

    • sshender says:

      Here you go:

      http://www.vimeo.com/23077070

      BTW, it features Richard too….

      *the naming and description of the video are mine

      • oao says:

        The video does not play in either IE8 or NS9.

        • sshender says:

          Not sure what NS9 is (you surely don’t mean Netscape, do you?) but my IE8 plays it like a charm.

          Make sure you have the latest adobe flash player installed, clear your history, reset IE and if none of this helps, switch to Firefox or Chrome.

          You can also download the original AVI file and watch it at your convenience (I’d recommend VLC player for that, but whatever gets you going).

          • oao says:

            Yes, I do mean Netscape. I have tried all other browsers and I prefer NS to all. It is lighter, faster, simpler and it works in 99.99% of the time. The others are fat, slow and full of bells and whistles which I never bother to use. In fact, I use IE8 only when I have to.

            I always have the latest Flash player installed. And the fact that 2 different browsers don’t play it suggests the problem is elsewhere.

            Where is the AVI file? I do use VLC as my player.

    • E.G. says:

      Todah sshender.

  4. E.G. says:

    The French court’s decision says that Dr. Yehuda (and the Jewish weekly) did not produce evidence beyond several photos regarding Jamal’s more recent (2000) scars and thus, cannot claim that Jamal was not wounded in 2000 (the burden of proof is on the defendants). Hence, since Jamal and his advocates claim that he was injured by IDF bullets (M-16!) in 2000, contradicting him without medical proof constitutes slander.

    • Ray in Seattle says:

      Thanks for the explanation/translation. This will be interesting to watch though it will probably take a couple of years to resolve. I wonder if there were any witnesses to Jamal’s earlier statement to the Dr. that he was wounded in an Arab axe attack. From the events reported yesterday – apparently not.

      Also, in the US this would be called a “he said – she said” – and therefore not legally resolvable without corroborating hard evidence from either side. I wonder why the Dr. can’t sue Jamal for defamation – for saying that he (the Dr.) made sh*t up which is also defamation it seems – on the same basis (Other than his word Jamal has no hard evidence that he was even shot by the IDF. The news photos and video don’t show blood. No al Shifa photos were produced of course.)

      I’ll hope for a well written English language news report/analysis on this – but won’t hold my breath.

      • oao says:

        Unless the dr. has evidence, it IS a he said he said. And in that case this is an opportunity for all Israel haters–including the French legal system, which I would not want to touch–to take their revenge on Karsenty’s victory.

      • E.G. says:

        Dr. Yehuda performed the surgery on Jamal, at Shiba hospital (near Tel Aviv) in 1994, after the surgeons in Gaza were not able to repair his handicap (grosso modo, hand paralysis – Dr. Yehuda replaced a hand tendon with a leg one). So he’s fairly well acquainted with the patient’s medical file and scars.
        So it’s “Jamal said – the surgeon did”. And Jamal would not undergo an independent medical expertise – counter-expertise.

        It may also be helpful to ack. that Dr. Yehuda is also a military medic, who knows what damage an M-16 bullet can do.
        And recall, no bullets were ever presented (there’s a telling sequence, I think it’s from Esther Shapira’s first documentary, with Talal Abu Rahmeh asserting the bullets are in some safe place).

        I haven’t read it yet, but here’s Véronique Chemla’s account (in French) – perhaps an automatic translator can give an idea.
        http://www.veroniquechemla.info/2011/03/les-blessures-de-jamal-al-dura-etudiees.html

        • oao says:

          You didn’t catch my drift.

          I am perfectly aware who said and who did. I was describing how the french legal system treats it. If the dr. does not have documentation of the case that he can show what he did, the system will pretend he can’t prove his case.

  5. E.G. says:

    What is in fact happening is that Charlie’s angels are zealously defending the narrative.
    Poor Jamal is not likely to have read (in the French he does not exactly master) the interview and article published in Actualité Juive. The defamation lawsuit was originated by Charlie’s narrative guardians in Paris, France, cynically exploiting Jamal yet again. They just wouldn’t let any evidence get in the way of their anti-Israel frame and do anything to silence any voice challenging their stance.
    These same sanctimonious voices are totally silent these days regarding Syrian, Libyan, Yemeni etc. armies/armed forces killing Arab civilians. They were equally silent about the Fogel family assassination. If they have any standards, they’re definitely double ones.

  6. Ray in Seattle says:

    Here’s a Haaretz blurb on the Yehuda defamation lawsuit for those interested. Doesn’t add much but is a small addition to the unfolding story. I guess some Arab MK thinks Dr. Yehuda should be prosecuted by Israel – yeah right.

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/mohammed-al-dura-s-father-wins-slander-case-against-israeli-in-french-court-1.359038

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