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IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Eclipsing Women’s Rights: Sexual Harassment at Sun TV # Vaw

PRESS STATEMENT: 28 March 2013

NWMI demands immediate reinstatement of Woman Journalist

The Network of Women in Media, , an independent forum of media
professionals across the country condemns the continued victimisation of a
complainant of sexual harassment, and demands her immediate reinstatement.
We also demand an independent inquiry into the case and the setting up -as
required by law- of formal mechanisms to redress at the
-based Sun TV.

The Background
S. Akila joined Sun TV Chennai in December 2011 as a news anchor/news
producer. Ever since she joined, V. Raja, the Chief Editor and Vetrivendhan,
the Reporters’ Co-ordinator indicated that the confirmation of her job and
subsequent pay rise depended on the ‘compromises’ she was willing to make.
This was apparently not the first time they had made such demands, but due
to the hostile and intimidating atmosphere at the office, few women had been
able to resist. As a result of her refusal to concede to their demands of
sexual favours in return for job security and pay hikes, her confirmation
remained pending even after completing the six-month probationary period.

Meanwhile, in November 2012, Ms Akila’s Diwali bonus was withheld. When she
raised the issue with Mr Raja, he asked her to get in touch with him over
the phone after reaching home. Upon phoning him, he told her that she had
been confirmed and that she should “take care of him” for the favour. Ms
Akila terminated the call, but managed to record the conversation.

When Mr Raja realised that she was not coming around, he kept harassing her
in different ways, including verbally abusing her in front of her
colleagues. On January 21st, he summoned her to his cabin and threatened her
with dire consequences if she went public with a complaint of harassment.
Soon thereafter, in contravention of the norm of assigning shifts, he put
her on morning shifts for several weeks, which required her to leave her
residence at 3.30 am in order to be at office at 5 am, since the office did
not arrange for morning pick-up. Questioning the unusual assigning of a
continuous morning shift, she confronted Mr Raja on February 26th. He
informed her that she was continuously on the gruelling morning shift
because she was not “adjusting” to him. After serving the morning shift for
another few weeks while struggling with domestic responsibilities, things
became unbearable. Ms Akila then approached the police on March 19th and
filed a complaint of sexual harassment. On the same day, Mr Raja was
arrested under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu of Harassment of
Women Act. Two days later, Mr Vetrivendhan was also arrested on the same
charges.

Continued Harassment
However, the arrest of the harassers was only a continuation of the
nightmare. Soon after Mr. Raja’s arrest, Ms Akila received an anonymous
phone call by someone threatening to kill her. In a move to isolate her at
the workplace, her friend Mr Kannan who was aware of the harassment and was
supportive of her, was suspended on grounds of a complaint filed by
colleagues who refused to work with him or Ms Akila. When Ms Akila reported
to the office on March 25th, she was not assigned any work. As per schedule,
she was to anchor the 12.00 noon news bulletin, but she was not allowed to
go on air. In a complete travesty of justice, on March 26th, Mr Raja who was
by then out on bail, joined work, and the next day, Ms Akila was handed a
suspension order. Thus, a woman who resisted sexual harassment and stood up
to demands for sexual favours has been further victimised.

It must be noted that there is no redressal mechanism at Sun TV for
complaints of sexual harassment. This is in contempt of the Guidelines
issued in 1997 by the Honourable Supreme Court in the Vishakha case, which
places an obligation on every establishment in the country to ensure the
rights of women workers by creating a conducive workplace free from sexual
harassment. These principles of gender equity and labour rights are also
enshrined in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention,
Prohibition and Redressal) , 2012 which was passed by both houses of
Parliament and is only awaiting the President’s assent.

Our demands:
1) Immediate reinstatement of S. Akila
2) Payment of damages for mental trauma
3) Immediate suspension of V. Raja pending an independent inquiry as
well as the police investigation into the case
4) Independent inquiry into the case, by a team that includes
independent, third-party lawyers, journalists and women’s rights activists
5) As a longer-term measure, setting up of an Internal Complaints
Committee as per the Vishaka Guidelines.
6) Establishment of Complaints Committees in all media houses as per
the Vishakha Guidelines and the new law once it comes into force.
Signed:
The Network of Women in Media, Working Council

1. Ammu Joseph, Bangalore
2. Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai
3. Laxmi Murthy,
4. Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata
5. Sandhya Taksale, Pune
6. Sameera Khan,
7. Ranjita Biswas,
8. Malti Mehta, Ahmedabad
9. K.A. Beena, Thiruvananthapuram
10. Sonal Kellogg, Delhi
11. Parul Sharma,
12. Padmalatha Ravi, Bangalore
13. Melanie Priya Kumar, Bangalore
14. Chitra Ahanthem, Imphal
15. Manjira Mojumdar, Kolkata
16. Sharmila Joshi, Mumbai

17. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

 

 

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Comments (10)

  1. This is not the first time that a female journalist have been harassed within the organisation. Just 5days back I have submitted my academic dissertation on the same topic. Patriarchy is so embedded in the society that a woman is not allowed to break the glass ceiling….Work place should be more accomodating for women. Just by saying that we are modern, doesnt make a society modern. Media is the mirror of a society.

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