“This is at least the third time a woman reporter has been sexually assaulted since the start of the Egyptian revolution. Media should take this into account and for the time being stop sending female journalists to cover the situation in Egypt," reads the statement. "It is unfortunate that we have come to this but, given the violence of these assaults, there is no other solution."
"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," they said in another statement this morning.
From Reporters Sans Frontières own coverage, it's clear that Egypt is a dangerous assignment for journalists, period. In the past five days, they count no fewer than 27 journalists and staffers - all but four of them male - who have been caught in the crossfire of clashes between security and protesters, beaten, detained by police or otherwise harassed. At least one (male) journalist was forced by police to undress, after which he was "beaten with a stick and insulted. All of his money was stolen."
The only thing that makes these attacks different from those inflicted upon Mona Eltahawy or Caroline Sinz, or even Lara Logan, is that their attackers not only beat them, but digitally raped them. Horrible, yes; brutal, yes; inexcusable, totally. Justification for pulling all women out of reporting the story...no.
In an open letter to RSF this morning, Lindsey Hilsum of the U.K.'s Channel 4 writes that "covering Tahrir Square is dangerous, and the assaults are horrific. None of us should make light of them. But we have fought for decades as female journalists to get our editors to treat us equally. I do not understand how an organziation devoted to press freedom can recommend discrimination like this."
Hilsum notes that female journalists, along with female producers, camera-operators, fixers and photographers, have shared the risks in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria during the Arab Spring uprisings, and have performed on the same level as their male counterparts.
They've also "had access to female activists, which is sometimes more difficult for our male colleagues to obtain," thus telling an important and often overlooked part of the story of this momentous year: that women have stood side by side with male protesters and have been equal partners in sharing the risks, even knowing the likelihood that they will not share equally in the rewards.
Facing a backlash from their constituency, RSF started backpedling within hours of their original advisory and is now claiming they were simply misunderstood. "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. And women journalists going to Tahrir Square should be aware of this situation.”
The consensus among female journalists in the region seem to be a collective-- if somewhat peeved -- shrug. It's all "well intentioned," tweets McClatchy correspondent Hannah Allam, "but we have a job to do."