On the night of February 11, 2011, more than 100,000 revelers filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square to celebrate the ousting of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Among them was seasoned war reporter and CBS News’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Lara Logan, who was covering the rapidly changing situation in the deteriorating police state.
A “merciless” assault
It was her second trip to Cairo in as many weeks. Logan and her team had just endured a frightening ordeal: Egyptian soldiers had blindfolded them, marched them at gunpoint, and accused them of being spies. Now, on February 11, Logan suffered another nightmare: She was separated from her crew and sexually assaulted by a mob of 200 to 300 men. Logan was rescued by Egyptian women and soldiers who banded together to help her.
In April, Logan gave a detailed account of her attack in a “60 Minutes” interview with Scott Pelley. She told Pelley that she felt “so much stronger” now, and said that she did the interview to help break “the silence on what all of us [women journalists] have experienced but never talk about.”
Her candidness was laudable, and many viewers praised her heroism. Not only was Logan strong enough to return (in February) to a struggling country where she’d been so recently traumatized, but she had the guts to share her harrowing experience with millions of viewers — all in the name of exposing sexual violence toward women journalists.
Though Logan’s intentions were honorable, not all U.S. media outlets followed her respectful lead in how they covered the story. As per usual when it comes to stories about sexual violence and rape, some writers seemed to blame the victim (a disturbing trend that was itself a hot-button issue in 2011 — see the SlutWalk protests). Some criticized Logan for her “Hollywood good looks,” for daring to have an adventurous career while also raising a family, and for reportedly having an affair with a married man.
Despite the naysayers’ groans, for many media watchers, the way Logan handled her ordeal exemplified journalism at its best. Her TV news colleagues offered words of support and solidarity. CNN’s Anderson Cooper tweeted, “sickened and saddened by the attack on Lara Logan.” NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, said Logan was “fearless, intrepid, smart and … a lovely, kind person.”ABC’s senior national correspondent, Claire Shipman, said [Logan] “covers stories with a bravery and gusto that is terrific for women to watch … Women like her and like Christiane [Amanpour] are critical role models.”
As eye-opening as Logan’s story was, though, it couldn’t prevent more attacks on female journalists in the field. On November 25, Caroline Sinz, a French reporter for public TV station France 3, was allegedly violently assaulted by 70 men in Cairo. Other assaults were reported, too, and the group Reporters Without Borders urged international agencies to take extra precautions when sending female reporters to cover the demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
Laura Barcella is a freelance writer and a Yahoo! copy editor. She has written pop culture, news, arts, and lifestyle pieces for more than 40 publications, including Salon, the Village Voice, AlterNet, Elle Girl, Nylon, Time Out New York, CNN.com, Bust, and the Chicago Sun-Times. She’s also the editor of the forthcoming anthology Madonna and Me, Madge-centric personal essays by women writers.