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#MeToo in India: Network of Women in Media demands inquiries into allegations; full text of statement

Editor’s note: Following Rituparna Chatterjee’s report — Is India’s #MeToo moment here? Women are angry and they are naming and shaming their abusers, Firstpost will publish a series of articles collating personal accounts of those who have made allegations of harassment, along with responses from those who have been accused of such behaviour. This is an ongoing exercise and will be updated to reflect new developments. If you wish to draw our attention to instances of harassment you may have experienced or witnessed, tweet to us @firstpost with the hashtag #MeToo.

Also read — #MeToo in India: KR Sreenivas, Gautam Adhikari respond to sexual harassment allegations

Also read — #MeToo in India: Writer Kiran Nagarkar, photographer Pablo Bartholomew named in harassment accusations

Also read — #MeToo in India: More allegations surface against male media professionals

Also read — #MeToo in India: The Wire’s founder Sidharth Bhatia denies allegations of harassment

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In the wake of several women journalists taking to Twitter to post allegations against their male colleagues — including KR Sreenivas, Gautam Adhikari and Meghnad Bose — and speaking about incidents of harassment and abuse, the Network of Women in Media has released a statement on its website, expressing solidarity with all those who have spoken up. In light of the #MeToo movement unfolding, the group has made a number of demands, including counselling for survivors and the accused, assistance in filing complaints, support for freelance journalists who are especially vulnerable, public display of anti-sexual harassment policy and the establishment of sensitive internal committees.

Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Here’s the full text of the statement issued by the Network of Women in Media on the #MeToo movement.

The Network of Women in Media in India stands in absolute solidarity with all those who have bravely spoken up about their experiences of sexual harassment within the Indian media. This is a watershed moment for all of us in journalism. We have witnessed and reported on sexual harassment in different fields and the need for strong mechanisms for redress. As the spotlight turns on us, we welcome this and encourage more women to document their accounts without fear or inhibitions.

We are extremely disturbed to read accounts where accused in multiple cases of harassment enjoy impunity and continue to work in newsrooms unchecked. We strongly condemn 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.

In the light of these events, NWMI demands:

1. All media organisations, including journalism colleges and departments, journalist unions and press clubs, must take suo moto cognisance of the accounts of survivors, institute inquiries and take appropriate action.

2. All media organisations and journalism colleges must have policies to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace and set up properly constituted Internal Committees (IC) in keeping with mandatory requirements of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, with every member trained to handle complaints. All ICs must be headed by a woman, half the members must be women, and the ICs must have one impartial external woman expert in law or women’s rights. IC members must be accessible and empathetic to complaints and inquire into them in a time-bound manner, and managements must take prompt action based on the recommendations of the IC. The process for initiating a complaint also needs to be made known widely.

3. All media organisations and journalism colleges must ensure that details of the anti-sexual harassment policy and the constitution of the IC are widely circulated/publicised/displayed within their organisations and on their websites. The consequences of sexual harassment must be clearly outlined in job contracts and code of conduct manuals.

4. Given the nature of journalism itself, ICs and employers must be sensitised to take up complaints that arise out of employment that includes being in the field and interacting with a wide range of sources. Editors must ensure that stories are not privileged over the safety of their staff.

5. In keeping with the SH Act, 2013, freelancers and stringers, who are among the most vulnerable to sexual harassment, given their job insecurity must also be brought under the purview of anti-sexual harassment policies and the jurisdiction of Internal Committees of the media houses they contribute to.

6. All media organisations and journalism colleges must provide assistance to the complainant if she so chooses to file a complaint in relation to the offence under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force;

7. All media organisations and journalism colleges must have policies for gender mainstreaming and also conduct gender sensitisation workshops at least twice a year in order to promote an atmosphere of gender equality and equity.

8. All media organisations and journalism colleges should provide professional counselling to both survivors and those accused of sexual harassment.

9. The allegations that have surfaced so far also merit journalistic follow-up. Instead of burying the story, big media/legacy organisations should follow up these stories in terms of reports with due diligence. The media must shine the light on ourselves in order to break the entrenched impunity for perpetrators of sexual harassment at the workplace.

Read part one, two, three, four, and five of this series.

Updated Date: Oct 08, 2018 18:24 PM

Updated: October 8, 2018 — 1:02 pm
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