PARIS : A French television journalist said Friday she was punched and roughed up, then sexually assaulted while covering protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, the second attack reported in a single day on women journalists working there.Caroline Sinz told France 3 television, her employer, that she and her cameraman were set upon by young men in the square then separated Thursday. She said she was punched, then “subjected to a sexual aggression in front of everyone in full daylight.” Providing more detail in an interview with RMC radio, she said boys 14 to 16 years old “tore off my clothes and undergarments” and assaulted her.
Mona el-Tahawy, a prominent Egyptian-born U.S. columnist, said she was sexually assaulted, beaten and blindfolded Thursday near the square – by local police. She said the police then dragged her to the nearby Interior Ministry by her hair and detained her there for 12 hours.
Tahawy, based in New York, is a women’s rights defender, a lecturer on the role of social media in the Arab world and a former Reuters journalist.
In February, Lara Logan, a U.S. correspondent for CBS television, was sexually assaulted by a frenzied mob in Tahrir Square.
The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders advised media outlets Thursday night that “there is no other solution” but to hold off on sending female journalists to Egypt.
But when that advice was criticized in France Friday, the Paris-based organization toned down its warning, urging media outlets to show “great care with the safety of the reporters they send.”
“It is more dangerous for a woman than a man to cover the demonstrations in Tahrir Square,” Reporters Without Borders said. “That is the reality and the media must face it.”
“It is the first time that there have been repeated sexual assaults against women reporters in the same place. The media must keep this in mind when sending staff there and must take special safety measures ... We are not saying the international media should pull out and stop covering events in Egypt, but they need to adapt to the threats that currently exist. Women journalists going to Tahrir Square should be aware of this situation.”
According to a 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, more than 80 percent of Egyptian women suffer sexual assault or harassmentranging from remarks to leering, half of them on a daily basis.
The journalism branch of France’s CGT union argued that editors should not decide which reporters to assign to stories based on their gender nor give in to those who would limit women “to the role of wife or mother.”