- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2016

A female reporter covering the weeklong Carnival celebration in Cologne, Germany, says she was groped while giving a live report.

Esmeralda Labye, a TV journalist for the Belgian station RTBF, wrote in an article for the station that a man reached over and grabbed her breast in the middle of a live broadcast, The Telegraph reported.

“As I started the broadcast, two or three man gathered behind me and tried to make themselves the centre of attention,” she wrote. “I didn’t see them as I was focusing on the broadcast. Then I felt a kiss on my neck … almost immediately after I heard someone saying ‘do you want to sleep with me’ and some hands on my shoulders.

“I noticed the person behind me was making an obscene gesture,” she said.

Ms. Labye tried to continue the broadcast, but things escalated, The Telegraph reported.

“In practice we always stay looking at the camera for a few seconds so that the presenter in the studio has time to thank us and continue their broadcast,” she continued. “It was at that exact moment that one of the men leaned over and touched my breast. At that moment I lost my temper and, knowing we were no longer live, I turned around and warned him, ‘do not touch me again.’

“They didn’t seem to understand why I was angry but they left without saying a word,” she said.

Ms. Labye said she and her cameraman later reported the incident to the police and received a apology from the city.

“We must do our work, it is our duty to keep people informed,” she wrote, “but it is increasingly difficult to do so due to the intervention of these agitators.

“That evening those men wanted to be comedians, but instead they became wretched and cowardly aggressors,” she said. “I feel that we are increasingly the targets of these types of men because we are in front of a camera.”

The city of Cologne has brought in an extra 2,500 police officers and spent an additional $450,000 to boost security for Carnival after hundreds of women reported sexual assaults and robberies there on New Year’s Eve. Police have already recorded 22 sexual assaults in the city on opening night of the weeklong street party.

RTBF Director Jean Pierre Jacqmin said he did not believe the incident was linked to the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults.

“I don’t have that impression at all at this time, but I can confirm to you that this happened and that we reported it to the police,” he said. “We are not going to broadcast the footage of what happened because it is degrading to the journalist in question.”

Cologne police said the number of sex attacks on the first night of Carnival was higher than at last year’s event. Police said they have 190 people in custody that officials are describing as “a cross-section of the general public,” BBC News reported.

The New Year unrest in the city fueled German unease about a record influx of asylum seekers. It was reported last month that Carnival organizers in Cologne and Bonn were distributing leaflets at various refugee centers explaining sexual consent to migrants.

“‘Butzen’ means kissing somebody on the cheek, one of our carnival customs,” read the leaflets, which were printed in a number of languages including English, French, Arabic and Farsi. “Sexual overtures are strictly prohibited. Women and men must always consent to the ‘butzen’. No means no!”

Ms. Labye said she’s positive her harassers were German, the Daily Mail reported.

She said that living in an ethnically mixed district of Brussels, she has never experienced any problems with men from immigrant backgrounds.

“I have worked in Afghanistan and North Africa too, and nothing untoward ever happened to me as a white, female journalist,” she told the Daily Mail.


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