South African-born journalist Lara Logan has spoken about the “darkest nightmare” of her life - an attack by a wild bunch of Egyptian youths as she was preparing to file a live report for CNN from Cairo’s Tahrir Square last Friday evening.
In pictures taken seconds before the attack, she is surrounded by several men holding up placards. However, it is believed that none of them was responsible for what happened.
At the time of the assault, Logan, the CBS network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, had been describing the jubilation in the aftermath of the resignation of Hosni Mubarak.
“The attack was so sudden” Logan told her distraught family in Durban, where she was born.
She had “no chance of escaping”.
In the crush, she was separated from her crew. During the attack that followed, her clothes were ripped off, she was kicked and punched, her hair pulled out and she was sexually attacked.
She said she had escaped being raped because of the intervention of a group of women who threw themselves on top of her, protecting her from further harm.
Egyptian soldiers, she said, also came to her aid and escorted her back to her hotel.
A short statement from CBS last week said: “Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a 60 Minutes story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amid the celebration.
“She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the US on the first flight the next morning.”
A week before, during the heat and confusion of the uprising, Logan and fellow crewmen were detained at gunpoint, blindfolded and interrogated by Egyptian militia.
“They blindfolded me,” she said in an interview with Esquire magazine. “But they said if I didn’t take it off, they wouldn’t tie my hands. They kept us in stress positions - they wouldn’t let me put my head down. It was all through the night. We were pretty exhausted.”
Logan described she became ill.
“I’d been ill for a few days. I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone at CBS. I vomited so much that they did have a medic see me at this secret facility - they wouldn’t tell us where we were.
“Then I was begging for an IV (intravenous drip) and, at first, they wouldn’t. I brought up everything that the medic gave me. I was sick all over the interrogation cell. Eventually they put me on an IV.
“We were accused of being Israeli spies, agents. We were accused of everything.”
They were deported back to the US, but Logan was determined to return to Egypt and within a few days she was back reporting in Tahrir Square.
“It is in my blood to cover tumultuous events,” she said. “It is very hard for me to be away from this story. I felt like I had failed because I did not deliver and I take that responsibility very seriously.”
Recovering from the attack in a Washington hospital, Logan said that at one point during the assault, she feared for her life.
It is now believed that amid the celebrations over the resignation of Mubarak, an unruly mob of about 200 had entered the square, hellbent on mayhem and destruction.
Logan is no newcomer to danger. As CBS chief foreign correspondent, she said she was well aware that every time she landed on foreign soil in a hostile environment, the risks were enormous.
A former pupil at Durban Girls’ College, Logan showed an early inclination for danger. While working as a student on the Sunday Tribune, she covered a particularly brutal murder of two English women at Sodwana in KwaZulu-Natal. She was advised not to go there because the murderer had not been found, but she went anyway and spent several days with police tracking down the suspect, sending back first-hand reports of the murder scene.
After a stint as a presenter on Britain’s Good Morning TV, she moved to the US, working at CBS on the high-profile 60-minute programmes, covering everything from the Middle East war to the plight of the rhino.
Formerly married to American professional baseball player Jason Seimon, she is now married to Joseph Burkett, whom she met in Iraq when he worked as a US defence contractor.
Logan was once famously at the centre of a row with ITV correspondent Julian Manyon, who wrote in a Spectator article that “the considerable charms of Lara Logan” would be the envy of Mata Hari.
In another swipe at her good looks, she was also featured in a front page newspaper article claiming that her short tops were upsetting soldiers in a combat zone. However, on the occasion Tahrir Square, Logan was wearing the same clothes as her team - khaki pants, boots and a plain shirt.
This week, the US Committee to Protect Journalists told the UN that attacks on press personnel had “reached alarming levels” and that leading international bodies - including the UN - had failed to consistently come to their defence.
“With the example of Egypt fresh in our minds, it is a pivotal moment to focus public attention on the importance of press freedom,” said Paul Steiger, chairman of the group. - Sunday Argus