15 June 2011

CPJ includes sexual aggression in journalist security guide

Following dozens of reports of journalists being sexually victimised on past assignments, such as CBS correspondent Lara Logan's sexual assault in Cairo this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has added the topic of sexual aggression against journalists and how to minimise the risk to its journalist security guide.

According to CPJ, both local and foreign journalists have reported being attacked. (See CPJ's new report, The Silencing Crime: Sexual Violence and Journalists, for documented cases of sexual aggression against journalists.) And although most victims have been women, men have also targeted, often while in detention or captivity.

"Being aware of one's environment and understanding how one may be perceived in that setting are important in deterring many forms of sexual aggression," says CPJ.

CPJ's new section on sexual aggression gives journalists some practical suggestions, such as: always seek prior advice from colleagues with experience in that locale, especially if it's new territory for you; travel and work with colleagues or (vetted) support staff; keep in touch with your newsroom back home; dress conservatively and in accordance with local custom; appear confident but avoid striking up conversation or making eye contact with strangers.

And for news organisations: include guidelines on the risk of sexual assault in your security manuals as a way to increase attention and encourage discussion; identify places where the overall risk is greater, such as conflict zones where rape is used as a weapon; set clear policies on how to respond to sexual assaults that address the journalist's needs for medical, legal, and psychological support; create a climate in which journalists can report assaults without fear of losing future assignments and with confidence they will receive support.

CPJ is committed to documenting instances of sexual assault, and journalists are encouraged to contact CPJ to report such cases; information about a case is made public or kept confidential at the discretion of the journalist.

CPJ security guide: Addendum on sexual aggression

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