Beware, female journos in Cairo warned
Paris - Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders urged media organisations on Friday to take care to protect female reporters from sexual assault while covering unrest in Egypt, following several serious attacks.
The group initially warned women journalists not to work in Cairo's Tahrir Square, epicentre of the revolt against Egypt's junta, at all, but after protests from press unions decided instead to advise great caution.
"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," RSF said.
"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."
For the past week Tahrir Square has seen mass protests and violent clashes between regime forces and pro-democracy campaigners demanding an end to trial by military tribunal and a faster transition to civilian rule.
On Thursday, French television reporter Caroline Sinz from the state network France 3 was subjected to a violent sexual assualt by a gang of young men and boys and her cameraman was beaten as they tried to cover the revolt.
The attacks came shortly after Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy reported that she had been the victim of a grotesque sexual assault by police after she was arrested during the protests.
Both cases recalled the February 11 sexual assault on South African CBS correspondent Lara Logan, who was seized by a mob as she worked in the square.
Several other women, both Egyptian and foreign, have complained of sexual aggression from both protesters and security forces.
According to a study carried out in 2008 by the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights, more than 80% of Egyptian women suffer sexual assault or harrassment ranging from remarks to leering, half of them on daily basis.
In an initial statement issued late on Thursday, Reporters Without Borders had called on media organisations to temporarily stop sending women to cover the street fighting, but this advice was later withdrawn.
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".