Lara Logan: “Thank You”

It’s easy to sit in the relative safety of your home or office and opine about events, big, small and Lindsay Lohan. But it’s much different to be out there on the streets, particularly when bullets and tear gas are flying or when a group of seemingly peaceful protestors decide they need to be a little less peaceful.

And, yeah, I know. It’s a Twitter and Facebook world. Still, most of the big, important stories need more context than you can get in 140 characters. So I have great appreciation and admiration for journalists who are willing to put themselves at risk to report the news.

That’s why the story about Lara Logan is so disturbing.

Logan, a CBS reporter, was covering the story in Tahir Square following Mubarak’s decision to pack his bags and head off to a retirement community. Logan was attacked, beaten and sexually assaulted. Here’s a statement by CBS, contained in a story on Mediaite, “CBS News’ Lara Logan Subjected To Brutal and Sustained Sexual Assault In Egypt“:

On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS Correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a 60 MINUTES story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into a frenzy.

In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and Correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

Logan was released from a New York hospital Tuesday. But the attack on her points to the dangers reporters — and I include those using Twitter and Facebook here along with traditional media — face. Here’s a story on NPR:

The attack on a CBS correspondent in Egypt covering the fall of President Hosni Mubarak highlights the dangers that journalists face every day as they cover breaking news stories in foreign countries, especially regions that restrict freedom of the press.

Lara Logan, 39, was beaten and sexually assaulted by a Cairo mob Friday in the frenzied aftermath of Mubarak’s resignation after she was separated from her TV crew. She is among more than 140 journalists who have been attacked while covering Egypt’s political upheaval, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent organization to promote press freedoms worldwide. Logan is an CPJ board member.

As I’ve been following this story for the past few days, I’ve also been disturbed about the nasty — no, not just nasty, vile — comments and commentaries about Lara Logan that have circulated through the blogosphere. Folks, this is the dark side of the Internet where people can hide behind computers and now smartphones and attack anyone or anything.

Here’s from a WaPo blog post by Melissa Bell, “A thank you to CBS reporter Lara Logan for letting her story be known“:

On Friday, the world watched a gleeful, giant celebration. History was made, President Obama told the world. Men and women danced in the street. Fireworks lit up the sky over Egypt. Although there had been bloodshed and pain, it paled in comparison with what a disparate group of people had done when they came together in peace. The people had toppled a dictator.

On Tuesday, CBS released a statement, short and straight, that punched people in the stomach with its staccato message. Amid that joyful party, there had been “a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.”

Lara Logan, CBS News’ chief foreign correspondent, had been surrounded by more than 200 people in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, separated from her colleagues and attacked.

After the news came the responses, in three distinct categories:

• Those who blamed her for being beautiful and blond in a foreign country.

• Those who blamed the Muslim country.

• Those who blamed journalism for not doing enough to protect women.

The responses make a terrible situation so much worse. (And cost at least one man, Nir Rosen, his job.)

Here’s why this story is not just about Logan:

A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women experience public sexual harassment, from groping to assault.

Here’s why this story is not just about Egypt, either:

In 2000, in New York’s Central Park, an assault similar to Logan’s occurred during a parade. Seven women were attacked. In the United States. Attacks occur everywhere, every day. Again and again.

The assault did not happen because Logan was a reporter in a dangerous country. It did not happen because that country happens to be Muslim. It happened because sexual assault occurs every single day to women everywhere in the world.

Here’s why this story is about Lara Logan:

That 2008 report also said nearly 97 percent of Egyptian women and 87 percent of foreigners do not alert police after an assault.

Logan did not stay silent. Through CBS’s statement, her story was heard. It gave voice to an incident that happens all the time, every day. Maybe it will push one more person to tell their story.

For that, I say thank you.

No question. Lara Logan, thank you and all the others like you. And among the lessons: Free societies welcome and depend on a free and vigorous press and fearless journalists.

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