Thursday, February 17, 2011

Do female journalists belong in war zones?

After the horrific attack on veteran CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan, last week, network executives met to discuss the possibility ofpulling their female journalists out of Egypt. Over at Yahoo!'s Shine, I talked to several longtime war correspondents -- all of whom happen to be female -- and asked them what they thought. Click here for the whole story, or keep reading for excerpts from our phone and email conversations:

Anne Barnard, a New York Times reporter who, with her husband, Thanassis Cambanis, was co-chief of The Boston Globe's Baghdad bureau for years, pointed out that in some cases it was easier for her to stay safe than it was for her husband. "In war zones like Iraq, I often felt women were safer than men -- it was easier for us to blend in by wearing hijab, and in some situations it felt that we were less likely to be targeted by people seeking to take out anger on a symbol of the occupying military," she told me in an email. 

Leila Fadel, the Cairo bureau chief for The Washington Post, reminds us that women face certain dangers no matter where they work: "For women, there is always a danger of rape or sexual assault when covering unpredictable and dangerous stories. I think this applies when covering violent crime in D.C., in the midst of an unpredictable revolution, or in a war zone." Fadel was detained by military police in Egypt earlier this month ("I suddenly found myself blindfolded and handcuffed and in jail," she said in an audio post soon after the incident); still, she says now, preventing women from reporting on dangerous situations is not the answer.

Susan Milligan, a political reporter who has covered conflict in Iraq, the Balkans, and Haiti and is now a contributing editor at US News & World Report, tells me: "I'm pretty horrified that they'd consider pulling only their female correspondents. That's right up there with laws saying women shouldn't do certain jobs because were more fragile… People here would be the first ones to say 'Well, if we stop doing whatever than the terrorists win,' yet they think it's perfectly OK to pull the female correspondents?"

Veteran jouranlist Anna Badkhen, the author of Peace Meals and Waiting for the Taliban has covered wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Chechnya and Kashmir for a number of media outlets including The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, FRONTLINE, and Salon. "I categorically do not believe that women war correspondents are more vulnerable than war correspondents who are men," she says. "Female and male correspondents have been killed, maimed, wounded in conflict zones. Female and male correspondents have been raped. I have been sexually assaulted (not raped) in war zones. Male colleagues I know have been subjected to torture that involved their sexual organs." War, she says, does not discriminate based on gender.

There's much more, and a great discussion is going on in the comments at Shine as well. Click here to read the entire article.

Photo: Lara Logan with Army Captain John Hintz in Afghanistan in 2010. Photo from CBS News

No comments: