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Sexual attacks on journalists: Why foreign women are seen as fair game

The recent assaults on New York Times photojournalist Lynsey Addario and CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan underscore the new dangers that female journalists face in covering conflict in a culture where the clash of liberal and traditional values is especially intense.

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I read with horror recently what my friend and colleague Lynsey Addario experienced after being held by rag-tag soldiers in Libya. Addario, a talented photojournalist whom I’ve worked alongside in various conflict zones, was captured along with three other New York Times journalists in Ajdabiya on March 15 and subjected to treatment that is nothing short of terrifying.

Her ankles were bound with her own shoelaces, and she was punched in the face by a soldier who laughed as she cried. She – like the three men she was with – endured beatings, as well as constant groping until being transferred to the Libyan authorities in Tripoli days later. “Every man who came in contact with us basically felt every inch of my body short of what was under my clothes,” she told the Times after her release.

The events are all the more disturbing coming just over a month after the brutal attack on CBS reporter Lara Logan in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Although that was by far the most extreme contemporary example of an attack on a female reporter that didn’t involve a kidnapping or murder, many other journalists – including a number of Egyptians – have spoken out about “less serious” experiences with harassment and molestation throughout the revolution.

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