A female journalist was sexually assaulted on live TV Friday in the German city of Cologne as she was reporting on the carnival celebrations in the city for the Belgian station RTBF.
Esmeralda Labye was on camera when a man reached over and grabbed her breast in the middle of a live broadcast. Commenting on the incident in an article she wrote, Labye said she had started the broadcast when "two or three men gathered behind me and tried to make themselves the center of attention," the Belgian reporter wrote Friday in an article posted on the RTBF online.
"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."
She added that as she was about to finish the broadcast, “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.”
Labye said she reported the incident to the police and had received “an apology from the city shortly after.”
In the light of hundreds of sexual assaults on New Year's Eve in the city of Cologne that were allegedly carried out by men of “Arab or North African origin” in the city, more than 2,000 uniformed police were patrolling the streets at the carnival in a bid to crackdown on potential sex crimes.
The organizers of the carnival also issued leaflets last week that included instructions for refugees and migrants in the city about sexual concent, kissing and urinating in public.
However, Labye told the London-based Daily Mail that she knew her attackers were German, stressing that she lived in an ethnically mixed district of Brussels where she had 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 said Friday after the news of the attack. “I don’t think there should be any no-go areas for women journalists. We should be able to work anywhere, without being humiliated.”
Furthermore, Cologne police said they are now investigating the incident and 22 other sexual assaults which were reported on the first evening of the carnival. Also, at least 181 people were arrested on Friday for different charges including sexual harassment.
Authorities have described those being held as a "cross-section" of the population.
As long-time reporter Labye said, the news shows that that sexual harassment against women is a problem that goes beyond racial stereotypes and extends to all nationalities and ethnicities.
Germany has taken in more than 900,000 refugees in 2015 and the attacks in Cologne kicked off a debate in the country about immigration, fueling anti-refugee sentiment.
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