A French reporter for public TV station France 3, Caroline Sinz, was brutally assaulted on a street leading from Tahrir Square in Cairo to the interior ministry on Wednesday night. Salah Agrabi, her cameraman, was also attacked. The assault of Sinz chillingly recalls what happened to CBS News reporter Lara Logan in Tahrir Square on February 11, the day Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power.
“We were filming in Mohammed Mahmud Street when we were mobbed by young people who were about 14 or 15,” Sinz told [Agence France-Presse]. Then they were dragged by a group of men towards Tahrir Square where they became separated.
“We were then assaulted by a crowd of men. I was beaten by a group of youngsters and adults who tore my clothes.” Then they molested her in a way that “would be considered rape,” she said. “Some people tried to help me but failed. I was lynched. It lasted three quarters of an hour before I was taken out. I thought I was going to die.” Her cameraman was also beaten, she said.
According to AFP, Sinz was finally rescued by a group of Egyptians and taken back to her hotel, where she was assisted by the French embassy before being seen by a doctor.
Just hours before Sinz was attacked, US-based Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy was sexually and physically assaulted at the interior ministry after she was arrested. She was released Thursday morning with both arms broken.
The day after Eltahawy and Sinz were assaulted, the French branch of Reporters Sans Frontičres (RSF) said that international media should not send female journalists to Cairo after two sexual assaults in the past few days. Journalists immediately raised objections and RSF withdrew its statement, which was amended to say:
“We urge the media to take great care and to make the security of their reporters and local correspondents their priority. It is more dangerous for a woman than a man to cover the demonstrations in Tahrir Square. 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. And women journalists going to Tahrir Square should be aware of this situation.”
British television journalist and news international editor for Channel 4 Lindsey Hilsum wrote to RSF that
“We have fought for decades as female journalists to get our editors to treat us equally. I do not understand how an organisation devoted to press freedom can recommend discrimination like this.”
A Cairo-based woman reporter said that sexual harassment had been more “prevalent” in the past week than ever before in the Egyptian protests; she noted that “Today’s Tahrir Square has a menacing feel. It’s a grittier and dirtier Tahrir than before.” Rebecca Chiao runs the Cairo-based harassmap which maps reported incidents of sexual harassment and violence; Chiao says that such are “ubiquitous” in Egypt:
In a 2008 survey, 83% of women reported having been sexually harassed. Almost three-quarters of Egyptian women who said they had been harassed were veiled and 98% of foreigners said they had been intimidated or groped.
While underscoring that sexual violence against women “is undeniably a problem and absolutely horrific,” British journalist Hilsum also made it clear that “that does not mean women should be intimidated into not reporting in difficult situations.” She pointed out that male journalists had also been assaulted and killed in this year’s uprisings but she had not yet “heard calls for them to leave.”
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Photo of Tahrir Square with sign saying "Down with SCAF" taken on November 23, 2011, by gigiibrahim