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Mob assault on France 24 reporter in Egypt

(IPI/IFEX) - Oct 23, 2012 - The International Press Institute (IPI) condemned the assault on France 24 correspondent Sonia Dridi, who was attacked by a mob as she gave a live report from Cairo's Tahrir Square this past Friday.

Dridi told France 24 that she had just finished giving a live report from the square when she was groped and pushed by a group of "mostly young men". With the help of reporter Ashraf Khalil, who works for France 24's English news service, the crew managed to make it to safety in a nearby restaurant. Dridi's shirt was reportedly torn open. Dridi and Khalil's bags were stolen in the fracas, but Dridi's was later returned, the Guardian reported on its website.

Dridi tweeted: "Thanks to @ashrafkhalil for protecting me in #Tahrir last nite. Mob was pretty intense. thanks to him I escaped from the unleashed hands."

Dridi filed a complaint with the Egyptian police the next day, while the French Foreign Ministry issued a statement of condemnation that said: "We demand that the Egyptian authorities do everything possible to expedite an investigation, identify the perpetrators and ensure that they face justice," France 24 reported.

"We condemn the mob attack on Sonia Dridi, which is a grave reminder of the threats faced by women journalists," said IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills. "The Egyptian police should immediately take action against the perpetrators and bring them to justice, because the best way to protect journalists like Dridi is to send a clear message to would-be assailants that such behaviour is illegal and will not be tolerated."

The recent reports of sexual violence against women reporters in Egypt form a shocking pattern. Last year, in the last days of the anti-Mubarak protests, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was separated from her crew and suffered what the channel described as a "a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating."

In June 2012, British journalism student Natasha Smith was assaulted by a mob of men who ripped her clothes off and groped her, and only escaped after another group of good Samaritans managed to get her away from the crowd and toward medical help, she wrote in her blog. Smith, 22, was reportedly in Cairo to film a documentary about women's rights in Egypt.

Last November, France 3 correspondent Caroline Sinz reported that she and her crew were attacked near Tahrir Square by a group of teenage boys, who separated her from her cameraman, tore her clothes off, and assaulted her in a way that "would be considered rape", the GlobalPost reported. It is up to police to ensure that criminals are brought to justice, but unfortunately, members of Egypt's own police force were blamed for a similar attack that was reported on the same day.

Egyptian-American journalist and commentator Mona Eltahawy said she was molested by police while she was in detention because of her role in protests on Tahrir Square. She was also reportedly beaten, and posted to Twitter that her left arm and right hand were broken. In what she called the "worst sexual assault ever," Eltahawy described how "5 or 6 surrounded me, groped and prodded my breasts, grabbed my genital area and I lost count how many hands tried to get into my trousers," France 24 quoted her as saying.

Also in Egypt, talkshow host and commentator Tawfiq Okasha has been sentenced to four months in prison for insulting President Mohamed Morsi, Reuters reported on Monday. Okasha's television station, Al Faraeen, was ordered off the air in August but, according to Reuters, a court said it could resume broadcasting on Saturday. Okasha also reportedly faces charges of incitement to kill the President.

"The use of prison time to punish perceived insult is a violation of press freedom and freedom of expression," said IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills. "In cases where an individual feels they have been defamed, they should seek redress through civil courts."

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