Lara Logan: Misogyny, Islamophobia and Freedom of the Press
Ahram Online noted in a March 10, 2011 article that “There has been much Muslim bashing and victim blaming in the global blogosphere regarding the case of CBS correspondent Lara Logan.” The article by Agnes Rajacic is titled “Logan Should Tell What She Knows” and depicts Rajacic’s own experience of being harassed in Cairo on the same day. Rajacic raises questions about what happened to Logan, who was responsible, and how we might understand this incident in the context of the Egyptian uprising against Mubarak.
While the assault of Logan remains cloaked in mystery, much of the commentary has aimed primarily at detracting from the idealism associated with the Egyptian revolution. The extremely disturbing sexual assault of Logan in Egypt’s Tahrir Square on the day when Egyptians were celebrating the end of Mubarak’s reign has lead to ugly assertions on two fronts in the mainstream US media. First, that such an attack was typical of a nation with a large Muslim population. Second, that Logan got what she deserved for reporting positively about the Egyptian uprising. A particularly egregious example is the February 15 posting by Debbie Schlussel in which Schlussel writes: “How fitting that Lara Logan was ‘liberated’ by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the ‘liberation.'”
For a thoughtful overview of some of the more outrageous statements by pundits and journalists, see the Salon.com article by Joan Walsh. Walsh emphasizes how Logan’s tragic experience has been used politically by certain commentators to attack Muslims and also to raise questions about media coverage that identify the protest movement with the democratic potential of the Arab World.
Beyond the media polemics, one might question whether this incident is not linked to harassment of the press by the Mubarak regime during the protest. Prior to Mubarak’s removal from office, Egyptian security forces and “the thugs” unleashed on the protesters attacked journalists. Indeed, Logan herself was detained by Mubarak’s security personnel as was reported in Time Magazine. Nicholas Kristof tweeted on February 3, “To my reporting brethren in #Egypt: there are reports that police are raiding hotels looking for journalists. Be careful!”
Although it is imperative to condemn the sexual violence against Logan, and more generally violence against women in Egypt and beyond, the attack on Logan has to be understood within the broad context of repression of the press that characterized the Mubarak regime and persists to some degree even now. Furthermore, this horrible story is an occasion to address the generalized misogyny faced by women reporters and a host of other issues pertaining to the political uses of sexual assault.