Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Oct. 8: In light of sexual harassment reports within the Indian media surfacing, organisations that work for the welfare of women journalists – Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) and Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) – have come forward to express solidarity with the victims and called upon the media houses to set up institutional mechanisms to redress such issues and punish the culprits.
The call on the media fraternity to address the grievances of women journalists comes after women from various professions, including those working in media, took to social media to express their ordeal at work place on the backdrop of #MeToo movement that rocked Hollywood last year and Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta’s sexual harassment allegation against actor Nana Patekar on the sets of 2008 movie “Horn Ok Please” that has hit the headlines.
The NWMI, a 14-year-old association that provides a forum for women journalists to exchange ideas and promote gender equality within the media, described the ongoing #MeToo movement in India as a “watershed moment for all of us in journalism,” and condemned the” rampant sexism and misogyny in Indian newsrooms that not only allows sexual harassment to go unchecked but also promotes a culture of silence, victim blaming and moral policing.”
The organisation has demanded in a statement that all media organisations and journalism colleges to take suo motu cognisance of the complaints made by the victims, take necessary action, and assist in filing a complaint under the Indian Penal Code. It wants all organisations related to journalism set up policies to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace and form Internal Committees (IC) to address complaints, publish details of the anti-sexual harassment policy on its websites and outline consequences of such acts in job contracts and code of conduct manuals.
It has demanded that media organisations and journalism colleges conduct gender sensitisation workshops at least twice a year to promote gender equality, provide professional counselling to both survivors and accused, cover freelancers and stringers in the anti-sexual harassment policies, and not bury ordeals of victims.
“The media must shine the light on ourselves in order to break the entrenched impunity for perpetrators of sexual harassment at the workplace,” read the statement.
The IWPC, an association of women journalists that was set up to support women journalist in their professional work, has also expressed concerned over sexual harassment faced by women journalists and urged the media houses to
“The IWPC extends its support to all the women journalists and women employees in the media who have faced sexual harassment by their co-workers and superiors and have had the courage to speak out. The fact that many of the complaints have gone unheard despite being brought to the notice of the appropriate authorities is disturbing and a matter of grave concern,” said IWPC president TK Rajalakshmi in a statement obtained by PTI.
Rajalakshmi lamented that “It is also reflective of a systemic malaise where despite the enactment of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the committees required to address these complaints and grievances are either not properly constituted or simply do not exist.”
The IWPC stated that all media organisations should set up internal complaints committees to redress grievances of women journalists and that many have taken to social media to express their ordeal due to lack of it.
“There ought to be zero tolerance for any form of inappropriate behaviour towards women employees,” said the statement, adding “Every woman employee has the right to work in an atmosphere free from any kind of harassment and hostility and employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of women employees in particular.”
(With inputs from PTI)