Dear Mr. Venkatesh,
Congratulations on your recent appointment as CEO of PTI.
The Network of Women in Media, India, is a professional association serving as 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. Local groups linked to the NWMI are currently functioning in several parts of the country.
We are writing to you to follow up on letters we had sent to Mr. M.K. Razdan (Editor in Chief, PTI) on 7 January 2016 and Ms. Padma Alva (Chief Administrative Officer, PTI) on 1 February 2016 regarding allegations of sexual harassment against a senior journalist associated with PTI in Goa, Rupesh Samant. The letters are attached herewith for your reference. We have not received any communication from PTI in response to our second letter, which called for specific actions from the organisation to deal with the unfortunate situation.
As we noted earlier this year, official complaints have been registered against Samant by several women who were targets of sexual harassment, with their statements recorded in the presence of a woman magistrate. After the first FIR was filed in September 2015 he went missing and remained absconding for over a month, during which police lookout notices were issued to all police stations in Goa, as well as police stations across the border in Karnataka and Maharashtra and border checkpoints. Samant’s anticipatory bail application/appeal were rejected twice in October 2015. He finally surrendered before a local magistrate on 1 November 2015, was arrested the same day and spent three days in police custody. He has been on bail since and remains so to date.
An earlier FIR filed against Samant in 2013 in Margao – for trespass and criminal intimidation – has also been brought to our attention. We understand that the women’s police station had cited this previous history while opposing his plea for bail.
Despite all this, Rupesh Samant appears to be still associated with PTI. Initially he was writing anonymously but, subsequently, his initials (RPS) began to appear again in PTI stories. We gather that, although he has not been officially reinstated, he has been allowed to write for the agency on a per story basis.
His continued association with India’s premier news agency has evidently stood in the way of the law enforcement process, with the police clearly dragging their feet with regard to the filing of the chargesheet against him even though a total of four FIRs, based on six complaints, were registered many months ago.
His renewed association with PTI, and his apparent ability to deter legal action, are also causing deep unease and considerable stress among his victims, most of them journalists, who had gathered up the strength and courage to lodge official complaints against him despite his seniority and connections. A number of other women who have also experienced harassment by him are now, naturally, thinking twice about recording their experiences.
As you are no doubt aware, the fact that sexual harassment infringes upon the fundamental rights of women to gender equality, the right to life and to live with dignity, and the right to a safe environment free from such harassment has been recognised in India since 1997, when the Supreme Court of India formulated guidelines to address the problem. Subsequently the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was passed by Parliament to deal with this issue. The right to protection from sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity are also recognised as universal human rights by international conventions and instruments that have been ratified by the Government of India, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
We believe the news media, constituting the Fourth Estate and serving as watchdogs of society, must lead from the front on such issues. We urge you, as the head of an important media organisation such as PTI, to take serious note of this matter and demonstrate that there is zero tolerance for such behaviour within the agency and/or by anyone employed by or working for the agency in any capacity.
In this context, we trust you will look into the allegations against Rupesh Samant and take suitable action to ensure that he cannot use his apparent, continued association with PTI to stand in the way of justice for women who have gone on the record about the harassment to which they have been subjected by him.
We look forward to hearing from you about action taken in this regard.
With kind regards,
Ammu Joseph, Rina Mukherji, Laxmi Murthy and Kalpana Sharma
For the Network of Women in Media, India (www.nwmindia.org)
Mr Venky Venkatesh
Chief Executive Officer
Press Trust of India
4 Parliament Street
New Delhi 110 001