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

Posted on November 24, 2013 in Specials

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.


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.