Female journalists on the front line

// 8 June 2007

A second female journalist has been killed in Afghanistan in less than a week, reports ABC.

Last night, Zakia Zaki, the head of a radio station, was killed in her home. The murder was particularly gruesome as she was shot several times in her head and chest as she slept in the same room with her eight-month and three-year-old sons. The sons both survived the shooting.

Meanwhile, Judith Matloff at AlterNet reveals the culture of silence over the rape and sexual abuse of foreign correspondents.

The only attempt to quantify this problem has been a slim survey of female war reporters published two years ago by the International News Safety Institute, based in Brussels. Of the 29 respondents who took part, more than half reported sexual harassment on the job. Two said they had experienced sexual abuse. But even when the abuse is rape, few correspondents tell anyone, even friends. The shame runs so deep, and the fear of being pulled off an assignment, especially in a time of shrinking budgets, is so strong that no one wants intimate violations to resound in a newsroom.

Local journalists working in conflict zones also experience similar problems:

Rebels raped someone I worked with in Angola for her perceived sympathy for the ruling party. In one notorious case in Colombia in 2000, the reporter Jineth Bedoya Lima was kidnapped and gang-raped in what she took as reprisal for her newspaper’s suggestion that a paramilitary group ordered some executions. She is the only colleague I know of who has gone on the record about her rape.

So what’s being done about it? Not much. Even training for journalists falls short:

Such lack of public discussion might explain why, amazingly, there are no sections on sexual harassment and assault in the leading handbooks on journalistic safety by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists. When one considers the level of detail over protections against other eventualities — get vaccinations, pack dummy wallets, etc. — the oversight is staggering.

The BBC, a pioneer in trauma awareness, is the only major news organization that offers special safety instruction for women, taught by women.

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