PRESS RELEASE- Statement on Harassment and Sensational Misleading reporting of TV channels #Vaw


STATEMENT ON HARASSMENT AND SENSATIONAL, MISLEADING REPORTING BY TV CHANNELS

By the Network of Women in Media, India

19 April 2013
Late evening on 12 April 2013, a group of students from Nalsar Law University went to the Rain Club located in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, for what was meant to be a farewell party for the graduating seniors.

When they stepped out of the club around 10.30pm to wait for their cab, one of the women students spotted someone taking their pictures with a mobile phone. She objected and demanded to see the mobile. The mobile turned out to be a dummy, without a card in it. When she further objected and demanded that the phone with which photos were taken be handed over, other media cameramen who were present began to film the altercation.

The students were outraged at this invasion of their privacy and the callous response of media cameramen who continued the harassment by following them to the car and persisting in filming them even as they were vehemently protesting this invasion.

The next morning several Telugu channels began showing the footage. Some websites also put up the footage. TV9, ABN Andhra Jyoti, Sakshi TV, Studio N, NTV, IdlyTV, News 24 and the following links which were still active till 14th April 2013 carried the footage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w9ZkMy0VqU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBHNNQW4kck

http://www.istream.com/news/watch/343985/Drunk-girls%E2%80%93drama-on-streets-of\
-Hyderabad

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WcZh0vlqDM

A detailed report of the incident is already on the media watch website, The Hoot (www.thehoot.org):
http://www.thehoot.org/web/TV-voyeurism-touches-new-low/6717-1-1-5-true.html

The online petition drafted by the victims is available here:

http://www.change.org/petitions/victimization-harassment-and-defamation-by-local\
-news-media

The incident represents blatant sexual harassment of women in a public place, criminal intimidation of the women with threat of public defamation through media. The anchors of the channels repeatedly referred to the women as punch drunk, half naked, and nude, when the women students were dressed in strapless evening wear. One of the female anchors referred to their attire as “creepily offensive short clothes.” They also claimed that they were dancing in the club although the entire story was played out on the street and not inside the club. The media persons were not present inside the club. To make matters worse, CVR News put together several clips of provocative dancing from various sources, implying that the present incident was somehow connected to those.

Significantly, while only a couple of channels were present outside the club and were involved in the incident, the story was generously shared with many other channels and web sites. All the channels replayed the footage provided by the offending channels without providing any opportunity for the victims of this coverage to respond or give their side of the story.

The channels also were assuming the tone of moral police, claiming that the students were “leaving Indian traditions in tatters by their dressing and behaviour”. The anchors of the channels took on the role of moral police by commenting on the young girls’ clothing, even as the channels’ staple fare for advertising revenue on their news bulletins comprises song and dance sequences from films and film events featuring skimpily clad women doing vulgar dances to vulgar lyrics. The reporters and anchors held forth on excessive freedom for women and its “devastating” effects on society.

The channels also falsely claimed that the students’ behaviour was condemned by women’s organizations even though they only showed the statements of two little-known local politicians, thereby misleading public opinion.

This is a clear case of media grossly interfering in the privacy of individuals by photographing/filming people without their permission in a public place. When the students objected to the intrusion of their privacy, the media aggressively continued to shoot them and followed them with provocative words.

This appears to be in violation of items 4, 6, 1, and 2 of the News Broadcasters’ Association’s Code of Ethics for programming and also appears to be in violation of the programming code prescribed under the Cable Networks Regulation Act.

As media professionals who believe the news media have a responsibility to conduct themselves in accordance with the laws of the land and the ethics and standards of the profession, we are appalled at this misbehaviour by certain television channels.

We request you to call for the entire footage in possession of the channels and examine it as the voices of the cameramen and other men present seem to have been removed.

We request you to strongly censure the channels and websites for manufacturing a misleading and defamatory story by intruding into the privacy of the girls and publicly harassing and intimidating them.

We also request you to ensure that the channels involved in this misdemeanour are fined, made to apologize to the victims, and to carry the apology on channels (including their websites, if any) as prominently and as frequently as the coverage given to the incident.

We firmly believe that, without exemplary punishment, such television channels will continue their vigilante activities, which routinely target women and other vulnerable groups in society.

Looking forward to an early and appropriate response from you,

Signed, on behalf of the Network of Women in Media, India (www.nwmindia.org), by:

 

Pushpa Achanta, Bangalore
Gita Aravamudan, Bangalore
Neela Badami, Bangalore
Anita Cheria, Bangalore

Aditi De, Bangalore

Ammu Joseph, Bangalore
Revathi Siva Kumar, Bangalore
Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore

Susheela Nair, Bangalore

Kavitha Muralidharan, Chennai

Kavin Malar, Chennai

Lakshmy Venkiteswaran, Chennai
R. Akhileshwari, Hyderabad

Lalita Iyer, Hyderabad

Manjari Kadiyala, Hyderabad
Satyavati Kondaveeti, Hyderabad
Padmaja Shaw, Hyderabad
Ranjita Biswas, Kolkata
Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata
Manjira Majumdar, Kolkata
Linda Chhakchhuak, Mizoram
Rupa Chinai, Mumbai
Ramlath Kavil, Mumbai
Sameera Khan, Mumbai

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

Meena Menon, Mumbai
Jyoti Punwani, Mumbai
Geeta Seshu, Mumbai
Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai

Sandhya Srinivasan, Mumbai
Sandhya Taksale, Pune

 

www.nwmindia.org

editors@nwmindia.org

A forum for women in media professions to share information and resources, exchange ideas, promote media awareness and ethics, and work for gender equality and justice within the media and society.

 

Press Release- #India- Legal challenge threatens the release of journalist , Naveen Soorinje


February 8, 2013

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned to learn of a
legal challenge to the decision to drop charges against
http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-condemns-continuing-detention-of
-indian-journalist-naveen-soorinje> Naveen Soorinje, now under arrest for
over three months on charges of involvement in a July 2012 vigilante attack
on a group of partying teenagers in the city of Mangalore, in the southern
Indian state of Karnataka.

Soorinje, who is a reporter for the Kasturi TV channel based in Mangalore,
was alerted to the possibility of an attack by local witnesses and arrived
at the site soon after activists of a group that styles itself as the Hindu
Jagaran Vedike began assembling. According to the testimony he has filed
both before the police investigators and a civil rights organisation based
in Karnataka, he was unsure initially about the intentions of the group that
had gathered. As soon as the attack began, he made efforts to inform local
police authorities, while a cameraman who accompanied him recorded the
violent events – footage that was later used by police to identify the
perpetrators.

Soorinje pleas for bail were rejected and his arrest resulted in widespread
protests in November 2012. In a review of Soorinje’s case on January 31,
the cabinet in Karnataka state decided to drop all charges. But with the
cabinet decision awaiting the signature of the chief minister of Karnataka,
a lawyer based in the state capital of Bengaluru made a plea to the high
court that the decision to drop the charges was illegal.

The high court has since, issued notice to the state government and
suggested that if charges against Soorinje are dropped, the court may order
their reinstatement.

“We are seriously concerned at this move to further detain Soorinje” said
the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

“Journalists cannot be held responsible to stop civil unrest or illegal
activities. To pursue the case against him any further would be a serious
deterrent to journalists in conscientiously carry out their professional
responsibility to report cases of civil unrest or illegal activities.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on  +612 9333 0950

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/ifjasiapacific>
@ifjasiapacific

Find the IFJ on Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific>
www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific

 

Notice to Karnataka govt on withdrawal of case against Naveen Soorinje #mediagag #foe


 

Bangalore, Feb 6 (PTI): Karnataka High Court today ordered issue of notices to the government and a regional television channel reporter on a PIL challenging the withdrawal of case against him in connection with attack on boys and girls in a homestay in Mangalore.

The division bench headed by acting Chief Justice K Sreedhar Rao ordered issue of notices to the government and reporter Naveen Sooringe on a PIL by advocate M P Amruthesh, seeking revocation of the cabinet decision to withdraw the case against Sooringe.

The petitioner said the government “without applying its mind” had withdrawn the case against Sooringe due to media pressure. He contended that there are 44 accused in the case and withdrawing the case only against Sooringe was “illegal and against Article 14 of the Constitution”.

He further submitted that the accused in the case were charged under various sections of IPC, the Indecent Representation of Women Act and Karnataka Prevention of Development and Loss of Property Act.

He also pointed out that the case had been withdrawn despite Sooringe’s bail being rejected by district court in Mangalore and also the High court.

On January 31, the cabinet decided to withdraw the case against Sooringe who is in judicial custody since his arrest on August 27, 2012.

 

Government issues gag order to TV news channels #Censorship


By Express News Service – NEW DELHI

26th December 2012 09:05 AM

Stung by the massive anti-government protests triggered by the gruesome Delhi gang-rape, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued a gag order to TV channels.

The ministry’s advisory released late Sunday evening said “inappropriate” media reportage was likely to “vitiate the law and order situation”.

The strongly-worded advisory, which reads much like the media gag orders of the Emergency days, is aimed at forcing TV channels to tone down their coverage.

Terming the coverage by some channels as lacking in maturity, the ministry advised them to report the protests in a “responsible manner”.

This comes at a time when the government only shut down nine Metro stations and blocked access to India Gate to prevent people from gathering there to protest. While Sunday’s protests turned violent, policemen lathicharged even mediapersons covering the protests. Most of the roads leading to high-powered addresses in the capital have been blocked to traffic for an indefinite period.

“It has been observed that some private satellite news TV channels have not been showing due responsibility and maturity in telecasting the events relating to the said demonstration and such a telecast is likely to cause deterioration in the law and order, hindering the efforts of the law enforcing authorities,” the advisory said.

It advised all channels that they should scrupulously following the programme code to telecast the matter “in a responsible manner with due care, maturity and restraint.”

The order pointed out that the programme code stands against any “programme which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitude. Signed by joint secretary of the I&B Ministry Supriya Sahu, it ends with a warning that “any violation would invite action under the cable rules.”

Sources said Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials also called up TV news channels asking them against using inflammatory headlines.

The News Broadcasters Association also issued a statement Monday after the attack on mediapersons by the police. It said that all member channels had reported the protests over the last few days with great maturity, sensitivity and restraint. “It would be a sad day for the country, and democracy if any attempt is made to muzzle the media.”

In another development, the Broadcast Complaints Council (BCC) of India, the body covering all entertainment channels, has asked its member channels to refrain from showing any vulgar content. In its advisory, in the wake of the gang-rape in Delhi, BCC told channels to refrain from featuring children below the age of 12 years in any situation that has sexual or adult overtones.

 

#India- FM radio stations under scanner #Censorship #FOE #FOS


FM radio stations under govt's scanner

The government is planning to set up a facility that will monitor the programme content that is broadcast on FM Radio stations during the 12th Five year plan. Information and Broadcasting secretary Uday Kumar Varma said there was a need to monitor radio content as nearly 800 more FM channels are likely to come up in the next couple of years.

Speaking at a function at the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) here, he said, “The whole world of monitoring of radio content is still to be handled and addressed in a meaningful manner. We do have a mechanism but I think we need to keep that mechanism evolving. With 800 plus FM channels expected to come in next one to three years, there will be quite a handful that will need to be addressed”.

He said private channels in the coming days would get permission to broadcast news which makes the need to monitor content important. “They will begin with AIR news but local news in any case, they may be allowed to generate and broadcast and that would have several manifestations which will need to be monitored,” Varma said.

Later speaking to PTI, Ranjana Dev Sarmah, Director EMMC said the content monitoring body was planning to expand its operations to include radio content and increase the number of television channels. “During the 12th five year plan period, we intend to set up the mechanism to monitor radio content as per the I&B ministry’s instructions,” Sarmah said.

“We also plan to increase the number of TV channels which are monitored from the current 300 to upto 1200 in the coming days,” he said. The EMMC is a department under the I&B ministry which monitors TV content round-the-clock and reports violations of rules and also carries out analysis. Earlier in his speech, the I&B secretary said EMMC was presently confined to satellite transmission but with the onset of digitisation of cable services, new technologies could be looked in to to see what content goes into the cable viewers’ homes.

Varma said that analysis of television content was another challenge that faced the EMMC. “It is good to know which channel is transmitting what kind of programme….which channel is the one which actually uses maximum time for advertisements on may be weekly basis or half yearly basis,” he said. “What kind of rural reporting the channels actually resort to in terms of their overall time devoted to matters which relate to the villages of India or developmental dimensions of the country…may be women, may be children or may be physically challenged and then there are sensitive analysis from the political point of view,” Varma added.

Secretary I&B said that the EMMC could set up its own Research and Analysis Wing which could be known as EMMC – RAW.

Agency/Source
Press Trust Of India

Open letter to Arnab Goswami by Madhu Kishwar


 

Dear Arnab ji,

When you started your innings with Times Now by demanding that power wielders provide honest answers to the general public for their various acts of commission and omission, many of us applauded your public spiritedness.  “The Nation-is-angry-and-wants-an-answer” approach gave much-needed vent to citizens’ frustration at our political masters’ lack of accountability. Every today, once in a while, your head-on approach works well, as it did when you ably stonewalled the attempts of Congress leaders in giving a communal colour to the recent killings and mayhem in Assam. Being from Assam yourself, you were on surer ground.  But trouble arises when you become an instant expert on a new subject every night and want your rage to be supported and echoed by all your panelists with the same intensity and fury as yours.

Over the years, you have let the success of your program make you forget the necessary dividing line between journalist and crusader and converted your prime time ‘News Hour,’ into a Kangaroo Court. Your jingoistic nationalism mimics the aggressive onslaughts of preachers of Born-Again Christian sects on North American TV channels.  Within the one-hour duration of your Kangaroo court, you bully your guest panelists to participate in a summary trial loaded with self-righteous harangues, aimed not just at the targeted wrong doer but also at those who dare resist your requirement that the verdict against the targets of your ire be pronounced right then and there. Unfortunately, some of the younger anchors are also catching on this disease. Therefore, it needs to be controlled before it assumes epidemic proportions.

You made it fashionable to see every issue through a prism which allows only two colors to permeate– black and white. That prism enables the anchor to see himself as lily white knight in shining armor out to save India from its various real and imaginary enemies and ills and ensures that all those whose alleged misdeeds you expose or whose views you target come out pure black, pure evil. You become enraged if someone tries to introduce a degree of complexity to the discussion. The panelists are expected to simply come and lend further strength to the anchor’s delusion that the one hour of News Hour will rid India of all its ills.

Dear Arnab, it is time you get over the illusion that if you wrap yourself in the national flag, everyone will automatically accept the purity of your intentions and the workability of your prescriptions on every single issue. Plenty of people are becoming exasperated with such posturing and want news channels to provide them real news instead of organizing daily cock-fights in T.V. studios.

Your crusading zeal and the style of interrogation has the effect of dumbing down the issues you pick up for debate.  For example, you are very fond of picking up sensational cases of police tyranny and callousness.  But your panelists are not allowed to go beyond expressing pious rage at these routine misdemeanors of our lawless police.  Whenever you asked me to join any such discussion, I have pleaded with you to go beyond raging over random cases and start a serious discussion on police reforms to channel the energy and anger of concerned citizens to think creatively of the systemic changes required in order to make our police a people friendly institution designed to protect citizens’ rights rather than tyrannize, fleece and harass them.  But that requires a great deal of homework and serious thought.  You have no patience for it because it would not allow your daily dose of righteous rage.

It is clear you are still stuck in the Oxbridge style of debating you are likely to have learnt as a student, whereby one is allowed to speak either “for” or “against” the motion. A good “debater” is one who makes mince meat out of his opponent’s arguments, caricaturing the views of others while proving the absolute superiority of his own. Debating” of the kind, taught in our elite schools and colleges involves being one-up on your opponents, even if in the process you end up with pompous posturing.  Those  who remain stuck in this mode of interaction become incapable of engaging in a dialogue, leave alone promote genuine “samvad.

Samvad, as opposed to debating, requires that one gives equal (sam) opportunity to one’s opponent to present her viewpoint, (vad). In fact, in the Indian tradition of holding Shastratha there is well-respected code that you acquire the adhikar (moral right) to criticize or debate someone’s views or ideas only if you first demonstrate that you have understood their position in great depth and appreciate the complexities and nuances of the opponent’s argument.

Take the example of how you went ballistic when all four of us on your panel invited to the News Hour on July 11, 2012 surprised you by our refusal to join you in condemning and demanding strict punitive action against the Medical Superintendent who allegedly allowed a “sweeper” to play surgeon that fateful morning in the   Banarsi Das Government Hospital of Bulandshahar. In your high voltage zeal, you converted 41 year old Mohammad Ayub who has worked for 19 long years as a ward boy in the Operation Theatre of that hospital into a “sweeper” who had dared trespass into the hallowed territory reserved for MBBS ( and above) doctors. Do you know that in neighboring Bangladesh, which has a far superior primary health care system, illiterate and barely literate women and men have been trained as very effective paramedics? Suturing a wound is no rocket science. Nineteen years is a long time for an OT assistant to learn something as simple as putting 5 stitches to close a wound.

Even alleged murderers get a chance to defend themselves during the course of trial. But you thundered at us for suggesting that you pay heed to the explanations being offered by the representative of the hospital before reaching final conclusions. He tried in vain to tell you that on that early morning, 17 injured persons had been brought to the hospital following a bus accident. Of the 23 doctors, 7 were present in the hospital. The rest were either on leave or had left after doing their shift. The ward boy assisted in stitching up a wound because it was an emergency situation and all 17 injured persons had to be attended to at once. The Medical officer had sounded the emergency alarm which meant all the staff members in the hospital were to assemble and be assigned duties. But, instead of waiting for other doctors to reach the hospital, those on duty decided to make the best use of available resources. You were outraged that all 23 doctors were not there to attend to this emergency as if you have never heard of shift duty. It is likely that more than the permissible number were on leave that day. But that had to be established only after a proper enquiry. But you can’t afford to wait a day or two for facts to be established since you need a new issue and a new sacrificial victim every night.

Your fury and insistence on “instant justice” and punishment during the News Hour itself was based on a 20 second grainy footage taken by some local photographer covering the bus accident. Neither you nor your correspondent cared to find out whether the ward boy had done a good job or messed up the wound. Incidentally, neither the injured boy whose wound was stitched nor his parents complained of any wrong doing. If you had made up your mind to convict all of the hospital staff based on a 20 second borrowed footage, why did you bother to invite the concerned medical officer on your program?

We pleaded with you to contextualize the “offense”­­­—even  if a ward boy putting 5 stitches on a wound could be called an offense—by seeing it as a symptom of the pathetic state of our public hospitals with their perennial shortage of doctors and nurses. If today, the country is short of 6 lakh doctors and 1 million nurses, it points to decades of government mismanagement and neglect of the health sector. But for you that meant we too had become guilty of the “Chalta Hai” attitude which you are determined to beat out of Indians.

Do you know what has been the net result of your crusade of July 11, Arnab ji? If not, please read a report filed by Shone Shatheesh Babu in Tehelka of July 28, 2012.  Ayub, a low paid class IV employee and the only breadwinner of a 10 member family– including a wife, three daughters, ailing parents and an autistic brother– was suspended from his job to placate your fury. In addition to facing penury, he is devastated by the ignominy of being called a “sweeper” who dared play surgeon by a whole host of TV channels who took their cue from you. By contrast, the Chief Medical Supervisor has only been transferred to another hospital. In addition, the administration has “issued warning to every employee to only stick to his/her area of expertise.” This means in future no hospital staff will dare go beyond their officially assigned duty even in emergencies for fear of being punished. From henceforth a ward boy hired to pull stretchers will think a thousand times before daring to offer a glass of water to a thirsty patient. Likewise an attendant meant for changing bed linen will avoid letting the doctor or nurse know if he sees that a medicinal drip of a patient has stopped working, lest he be held guilty of overstepping his limits.

Serious Political Consequences of Prejudiced Attacks

Your narcissism and oversimplification of political issues has serious political consequences since it is not limited to raving and ranting against corruption and mismanagement in this or that hospital or thana.

Take for example the way you handle issues relating to Kashmir. To begin with, you think of Kashmir only when there is a major upsurge of anger on the streets, leading to violence or shut down. Without doing proper homework, without taking the trouble to go see for yourself or get the best of your reporters to feed you reliable reports, you invariably take at face value the information and slant provided to you by either your favorite politicians in the state or the Home Ministry in Delhi.

Having already made up your mind that any protest against the government or manifestation of discontent against mal-governance in the state is “Pakistan-inspired mischief” you invite Kashmiris to your program only to tell them what you think of them. Either you deliberately pick those who live up to the image of being stereotypical secessionists or if they don’t oblige, you try to push them into that camp.  Your energy goes into showing them up to be anti-national elements whose grievances or point of view does not deserve to be heard, leave alone heeded. Even when Kashmiris come out to protest the killings of innocent men or young kids by their own state police, you only pour contempt at them at having invited such killings.

Equally important, you and your tribe rarely, if ever, celebrate anything good the Kashmiris do. For example, you have never covered the great hospitality shown to Amarnath Yatris by Kashmiri Muslims, including when bad weather conditions lead to life threatening situations en route to the shrine. Recently you went ballistic over Syed Ali Shah Geelani opposing the creation of separate enclaves for Kashmiri Pandits but you deliberately paid no heed to the main point he was raising that Pandits should be assisted in returning to their original homes. He is opposed to creating ghettos for them and has repeatedly emphasized the need to for them to come reclaim their homes in old neighborhoods. Ask any of the Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley. They will tell you that any time, they feel threatened, they depend more on Geelani than on the state police for their safety. And he does live up to his promise. This is not to deny that at one time Geelani contributed to conditions that led to the mass exodus of Pandits from the Valley. But would you rather Geelani stay forever the same? Why not acknowledge and welcome his new avatar? If you are seriously concerned about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits why not have a calm and thoughtful discussion with them and key Kashmiri Muslims leaders, including Geelani, on steps that need to be taken for a dignified and safe return of Pandits to the Valley?

There are a lot of positive signals coming from the Valley. But our national media has no time for actions and incidents that convey a positive message. For example, during the recent Amarnath Yatra, a Youth leader Bashir Ahmed Mir from Kangan in Ganderbal district risked his own life to save a mother-son duo from Bihar.  A young boy named Rohit Kumar from Bihar had accidentally slipped into the Thajwas River at Sonmarg. In panic, his mother also jumped into the fast flowing stream to save her child. But neither knew how to swim. Mir, who happened to be nearby, at once jumped into the waters and saved the life of both mother and son. (See link: http://www.kashmirdispatch.com/more-news/16078676-political-leader-saves-mother-child-duo-of-amarnath-pilgrims-from-drowning.htm). Several friends from Kashmir wrote to me to say that “if a Kashmiri had picked up an argument or a petty fight with a yatri over some issue, Arnab Goswami would have raised hell for hours on end but such positive actions showing respect and care for Indian yatris and tourists do not receive even passing mention in his News Hour.”

The rough and rude treatment you give to senior and respected Kashmir leaders causes no less hurt than unjustified killings by the state police or paramilitary forces. Every time I have tried to present facts about Kashmir that you ignore you not only shout me down but also make it out as is I have joined in support of secessionists and Pak-supported terrorists.

You have no idea how much harm you cause in the process. Each such program leaves Kashmiris seething in rage. They are made to feel that they don’t have the basic democratic rights that people of other states have, and that they should neither protest police atrocities nor mal-governance and corruption of  the state , leave alone patently harmful policies adopted by the central government. Any manifestation of discontent on their part is invariably treated as an anti-national activity. In the process, you and your tribe weaken their faith in Indian democracy. As a result, what may have started off as a protest against the high handedness of the state government ends up turning into an anti-India protest. I have been repeatedly told in the Valley that Kashmiris would never be so estranged from Indian democracy if at least the Indian media learns had paid attention to their legitimate grievances.

—————–

The author is a spokesperson, Kashmir Committee

The media’s handling of #sexworkers and marginalised has been patently insensitive


Festival with a difference
NUPUR BASU reports on the deliberations of a congregation from 42 countries in Kolkata.
Posted/Updated Tuesday, Jul 31 , The hoot.org
Meena (name changed) came from a middle-class family in Baroda. Like millions of girls in our country, she had an arranged marriage and had children. One day her husband left her for another woman, leaving her holding onto three small children. Unable to find a job, Meena got trapped into sex work. With the money she earned, she was able to send all her children to school and put food on the table. A year ago, the police raided her house and threw her into jail. She was there for nine days and finally managed to come out on bail after paying Rs. 10,000.
“The local television channels and newspapers published my picture; my parents, my brothers, and my entire family came to know, and I became an outcaste from my family. Why does the media put so much masala and make a laughing stock of us in society? Do they not have a conscience? Are we not human beings who have feelings and a sense of honour?” she said sobbing as she addressed a Media Plenary at the recent Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival in Kolkata.
All those on the dais, including the media persons, were moved to tears by Meena’s story. Among the 700-odd sex workers in the auditorium, some were seen openly crying. Meena had told a story that had a strong parallel in their lives.
Mumtaz Begum (name changed) of Ajmer district recounted how when three young sex workers from their community went to attend a party on Valentine’s Day on February 14, the police arrested them and put them behind bars. The police had informed the media earlier, and the latter took pictures of the women and splashed them in newspapers and on television channels.
“The entire day the local Sarera channel kept repeating in a loop the faces of these young women and people watched them in tea shops, hotels, and street corners. These women had done nothing wrong. They had just gone to attend a party. Finally we had to go and get them released on bail by paying Rs. 6000 each”, Mumtaz Begum recounted. “Sometimes these girls end up committing suicide because they cannot face the stigma from the media and the community”, she said with tears in her eyes.
“You don’t show the faces of dacoits and thieves in the media. Why do you show ourfaces?“ a sex worker from Maharashtra asked angrily. They were speaking at a plenary on “Media response to sex workers’ rights agenda” at the XIX International AIDS conference hub in Kolkata from July 22 to July 27. Nine hundred female sex workers, men having sex with men, and transgender persons had come from 42 countries to hold the Freedom Festival in Kolkata after having been denied visas to attend the main conference in Washington, DC.
Dominant theme
Invasion of privacy and violations of rights of marginalised communities by the media was a dominant theme at the historic Kolkata hub.
“I need to emphasize that the havoc that media can create in the lives of marginal communities is enormous and despite all the support that media render to such communities there is no way that they can compensate or undo the damage they have inflicted on the community”, says Akhila Sivadas, founder of Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), one of the co-sponsors of the festival. She added, however: “Today the marginalised communities are strengthened by the presence and their knowledge of regulatory bodies such as the News Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Press Council of India. They have learned to file complaints, approach the authorities, and get heard in places that matter.”
They quoted a hidden camera sting by the TV9 channel conducted in the houses ofDevadasis in Kudligi village in Bellary district in Karnataka in December 2009. Undercover reporters posed as clients with hidden cameras and talked to sex workers and their families. Their faces were revealed and the script for the story titled “Hanumana Hendthiru” (Wives of Hanumantha) was full of crude innuendos.
To add insult to injury, the report got the Goenka Award for Best Investigative Report and it was given away by the Vice-President of India. Several organisations have now written to Vice-President Hamid Ansari to withdraw the award for its exploitative coverage. A complaint was also filed with the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), a self-regulatory body of TV channels.
“Self-regulation by electronic medium is a new initiative and when it comes to violations by the media, it is not easy to ensure a level playing field for vulnerable groups. The media feel they are invincible, especially when it comes to marginalised communities” says Sivadas.
They quote several examples of such violations by the media in recent times:
  • A person from the transgender community was portrayed negatively on December 6, 2012 in Chennai on an entertainment channel, Zee Tamizh. They depicted her as the cause of marital break-up. The social ostracism against her was instant. The victim contacted the channel to stop telecasting the promo, but the producers refused to respond and allegedly went to the extent of abusing her. A protest letter drafted by CFAR demanding redress from the channel drew a blank. A formal complaint was then launched with Indian Broadcasters Foundation (IBF), a self- regulatory body set up to regulate entertainment channels. They agreed to take action against the producer who had wronged the transgendered woman. They assured the community that in the future they would be sensitive about their portrayal.
  • Another defamatory depiction of MSM/transgender community using unethical means was reported in Jagtiyal, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. A sensational report was allegedly aired on NTV on October 31, 2011 accusing NGOs and CBOs in Warangal of “trapping” and “luring handsome men” and forcing them to undergo sex change. The half-hour programme, according to CFAR, was full of falsehood. A rejoinder was drafted and sent to the channel. When they failed to respond, a complaint was filed online to NBA on January 21, 2012. They were informed that since NTV was not a member of NBA, it had written to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting requesting the Ministry to direct the channel (NTV) to cooperate with NBA in its inquiry.
According to CFAR, a programme they conducted between April 2011 and March 2012 with community-based organisations across four States–Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra–used diverse pegs to strengthen media messaging on reducing stigma and discrimination against People Living with HIV, and promoting social inclusion. The media addressed incidents of stigma and discrimination against PLHIV and marginalised communities in many ways. As many as 677 news reports emerged as a result of this effort.
The message given out at the conference was clear: Don’t take false portrayal by the media silently. Be proactive and contact the agencies that are there to look into excesses.
Gulnaar (name changed) from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh summed it all up very well: “Some media people are good and some are bad. Our message to the media is, ‘please do not look at sex work with a bad eye. We do this for our children, our family, our husbands’. Behind every sex worker is a very sad story.”
But despite the poor news stories, the gathering at the Kolkata hub was upbeat. As sex workers on the dais sang: “Hey Ho- Let’s go! Our right to say ‘yes’! Our right to say ‘no’ !”, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender sex worker from Mumbai, who sat on the stage holding a red umbrella over her head, to symbolise that they were all under one roof (see picture), said the news from the media stable was not all gloom and doom. “It is thanks to the support of the media on many issues in the last decade that we have been able to effect changes in the law; without them we could not have done it alone.”
Clearly the media has the ability to drive progressive policy and fight discrimination. The tragedy is when they become the object that drives discrimination.