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The Tehelka Scandal And Why The Mainstream Media Needs To Reflect Heavily

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By Anshul Tewari:

I studied Journalism from the University of Delhi. Being a journalism student once, and having a network of seniors and batch mates who came from a journalism background and have become journalists, we got to hear a lot about how the world of journalism really is. I still clearly remember how one of my friends at college explained a brief incident that happened with her at a Hindi news channel she was interning with. On the third day of her internship with the news channel, one of her seniors tried to make a ‘pass’ at her after asking whether she had a boyfriend or not, and then going on to talk about how she must have a boyfriend and flirtatiously suggesting that being a senior in the organization, having a boyfriend like him would help her grow. She clearly ignored that sign but was shaken, for obvious reasons. This continued for a while until another senior of hers came up to her, only to show his concern about how she should stay away from the flirtatious staffer, who is known to lure young girls who want to make a name in the news industry, and has had an incident of attempting to harass one them, sexually, in the past. This did not end here for her as this new senior also later tried to get close to her by calling her and sending her ‘personal’ messages late at night.

tehelka

Later that year, a similar incident happened with another friend who was interning at another news organization.

Most recently, a Tehelka journalist, very courageously, reported against Tarun Tejpal, the Founder-Editor of Tehelka, for sexually assaulting her. The case is now known to all.

News organizations and the immense power the editors have and play around with is nothing new. What is also not new is how editors and senior journalists, at many instances, have tried to seek personal favours from their junior reporters in various organizations. The way the mainstream media came all out in the open to report against Tejpal does showcase how various news organizations are taking a stand against this particular incident, but this is not the first case of its kind, and this is not where it begins or ends.

In the past as well, there have been many a cases where young journalists have been sexually exploited and their journalism careers made to end. The same journalists and producers who cry foul today, never came out and took a stand against it when their own employees went through it. Sexual harassment does not only mean rape, it also entails passing sexual comments, teasing fellow employees with sexual remarks or glares, or making them uncomfortable by your reaction or action, in any way, while they are at work – all that has been rampant in various news organizations.

The media is far from righteous when it comes to covering crimes against women or to dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. This is the time when they need to reflect upon how they dealt with cases of sexual assault in their organizations, where the victims came out but the cases were hushed away – more so in bigger organizations where it was easier to kill the incident.

It has somehow become easier to point fingers where they should be pointed, but more difficult to recognize that the media at large needs to reflect at how their organizations are run.

While the Tehelka journalist took a stand, one can only hope that many more journalists who have been made to go through such tormenting incidents come forth, and regardless of which news organization they worked with, the media does bring the case to journalistic justice.

You must be to comment.
  1. Farhat Naaz

    I appreciate your writing because I also agree with this point of thinking. Its not only about one media house its about many media houses..

  2. Suhas

    I think what has changed over the years is the influence of social media. Today, it has ensured that everyone has a voice, and if an issue of importance is raised it won’t die down, even if Mainstream Media tries to supress the news.
    The whole problem with Shoma Chaudhary, is the fact that her journalism was on showing outrage on various issues, journalism that caught eyebrows, yet when the very same situation occoured in her organization, she chose to go against what she wrote/spoke. Hypocrisy is the word that springs to mind.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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