The Dangers to Journalists

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Freedom of Speech

When Colombian native Jineth Bedoya Lima became a journalist, she'd never imagined it would lead to her biggest nightmare. At the age of 26, Bedoya was kidnapped, raped, and tortured while following through a story on Bogota's maximum-security prison La Modelo in May 2000. She was drugged and taken from the prison, and repeatedly raped by three different men. A taxi driver later found her hours away bound in a garbage dump near a road.
"We are sending a message to the press of Colombia," Bedoya recalled them saying.

Bedoya is not the only one to live with this. The U.S. and the rest of the world's eyes were snapped wide open when CBS correspondent Lara Logan was attacked last February at Cairo's Tahrir Square during celebrations after taking down the Egyptian dictatorship. And it's not just violence against women. Pakistani journalist Umar Cheema has publically disclosed that he was stripped naked by men wearing police uniforms and violated with a wooden pole in 2010.

Sexual violence against journalists is not just violence against one person- as if that isn't bad enough. When journalists are targeted, it is an attack on the freedom of the press and the ability of the journalists to do their job. Lauren Wolfe, blogging about it for The Atlantic, interviewed and quoted Logan after Bedoya's case was advanced to an international justice commission.
 "An attack in retribution for your reporting speaks directly to the First Amendment. It's terrifying in a different way. In her case, justice is critical because if you're allowed to attack journalists with impunity, there will be no free press, especially if the government is involved," Logan said.

Sexual violence against members of the news media is about more than personal suffering. It is meant to silence members of the press to keep them from bringing to light suspicious and criminal activity. The journalism industry must be more aware of the effect this pain brings on its staff and better prepare it for confrontation, both for the journalist's safety, and the industry's freedom of speech.

Photo credit/Chuck Coker,


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