You may have seen recently how some news agencies recommended that female reporters steer clear of reporting from Tahrir Square after some reports of sexual assaults. Here, The Undergrad and Katie Davies, a second year Journalism and Russian student at the University of Sheffield, debate whether that was the right move.
YES: Katie Davies
Female reporters who were sexually assaulted in Egypt describe hours of torment at the hands of their attackers. Hands grabbing at them, their clothes ripped away, thinking they would die alone on the streets of Cairo. How can we condemn news agencies for asking editors to think twice?
It’s not a question of feminism, but one of sheer practicality. Of course, every reporter at these events knows they are at risk – many journalists around the world face this and worse every single day. It is vital for freedom of speech and information that someone is always willing to stand up and face these dangers. But why choose a reporter who will be twice as much of a target when, ultimately, a male reporter can send in almost identical copy? We all know that being a reporter can be a dangerous job, but is it really such a terrible thing to ask editors not to put their journalists in
more danger than necessary?
Many will argue that we shouldn’t ‘give in’ and hide away – that women have to show that we cannot be intimidated. And it’s true: we should live in a world where reporters, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or anything else, should be able to do their job without fear. But, right now, that world does not exist – and it will only become a reality with a long, hard struggle for equality. The presence of a few more Westerners and a few more television cameras are not going to change anything in a few weeks. In the meantime, news agencies and reporters need to stay realistic: even if that means warning women to stay away for their own safety.
NO: The Undergrad
Is it fair to prevent a whole group of women from doing a job that they’re passionate about because of a few attacks? I am by no means belittling what those reporters experienced, I can’t even begin to imagine what they went through. But I don’t see why a few isolated attacks should stop women who are experts in their field from going out and doing their job.
I understand that there are dangers for women, but it’s not a safe job for anyone. Any foreign reporter in Egypt is putting their life at risk on a daily basis. They knew that when they signed up. But they’re committed to doing their job despite the dangers.
Reporters are aware of the dangers they could face but most won’t go putting themselves into situations where they’re likely to face problems. Women are aware of the problems they could face. They know they’re more likely to be a victim of sexual assaults like the ones recently reported.
But for every attack that’s reported there’s a number of female reporters who haven’t faced any problems. Is it right to stop these women doing their jobs? Is it right to lose contact with useful sources and contacts they’ve built up? Why should women lose the opportunity to report on such important stories simply because of their sex?
So what are you thoughts? Should women be kept from reporting in places like Egypt for their protection? Tweet us @wannabehacks or drop us a comment in the box below.
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