Ranjona Banerji: #MeToo Again, plus Fake Encounters of the Media Kind

13 Nov,2018

By Ranjona Banerji

 

#MeToo comes back, together with some fancy fake reporting. And two of India Today TV’s top anchors are involved. Vidya Krishnan, a journalist who specialises in health and gender and was recently with The Hindu, has accused India Today TV anchor Gaurav Sawant of molesting her. The series of incidents took place in 2003 when Krishnan was with The Pioneer and travelled with Sawant and other journalists to cover a peacetime drill by the Army.

Caravan magazine carries the report, and all the skin-crawling details are in the link below. The same Caravan issue has also interviewed the women who have accused artist Jatin Das of harassment as well as a long report on allegations against the music and events magic management group Only Much Louder.

https://caravanmagazine.in/gender/journalist-accuses-gaurav-sawant-of-sexual-assault

As with MJ Akbar and many men accused of workplace harassment, Krishnan’s report comes years after the event. Also, Krishnan and Sawant did not work in the same organisation. This makes any sort of redressal procedure very difficult. The Vishakha guidelines and subsequent laws about the Internal Complaints Committee do not adequately cover how to deal with sexual predators in other organisations. The law also falls short here.

How do we in the media find a way to support our colleagues who are sexually assaulted – physically, verbally, emotionally? There are silences in newsrooms, which have to be addressed. Journalists’ organisations are one way, because they are the only support systems we currently have. The pattern of sexual harassment rarely changes and it is here that vigilance is required.

Reading through Krishnan’s account of her subsequent reactions to Sawant’s actions and behaviour, the pattern that emerges is very much the same. The victim feel shame, tries to blame herself, tries to forgive the assaulter and so on. This fear and uncertainty that is created in the minds of the women affected – and it is usually women – is what we as a society have to address and understand.

Sawant has denied the charges and says he is looking at legal action, which is his right. India Today TV, his current employer, has apparently said that all this happened when he was not employed by them and there is nothing they can therefore do. This is somewhat disingenuous and at variance with the system followed by other media houses.

The Wire for instance issued this statement after journalist Vinod Dua used his Wire podcast to mock the #MeToo movement and the allegations against him. Dua’s podcasts stand suspended.

https://thewire.in/gender/vinod-dua-me-too-sexual-harassment-jan-gan-man-ki-baat

Like Sawant, Dua was not working with The Wire in the time frame of his alleged acts of sexual assaults. The Network of Women in Media had released this statement objecting to Dua’s podcast:

https://thewire.in/women/nwmi-statement-vinod-dua-metoo-episode

One can only hope that Living Media understands the seriousness of the allegations made against Sawant. I cut my eyeteeth in journalism with Living Media and there was a time when it stood for something. Over the years, we have seen that reputation being sadly degraded.

It is heartening though that the #MeToo movement continues. As it must.

 

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Meanwhile, Rahul Kanwal, the other major India Today TV star anchor displayed fine acting talent in a show which purported to be a real report. Although it is true that words like “simulated” and “representative” were flashed on the screen while Kanwal pretended he was part of a CRPF raid on Maoists, never once did he mention that it was a pretence. He pre-sold it as a real report and carried on with his breathless anchoring as if it was a real report.

Not sure what this is but it is definitely not journalism. Shame on India Today TV on two counts.

https://scroll.in/article/901726/how-india-todays-rahul-kanwal-survived-a-battle-between-crpf-and-maoists-in-chhattisgarh

 

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The BBC has done a remarkable detailed report on fake news in India, how it works, who are the main aggregators and how the media covers fake news. Hardly surprisingly, the pro-BJP, pro-Modi world rules the fake news universe with “nationalism” as the main driving force. Very sadly, several journalists are themselves involved.

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/duty-identity-credibility.pdf

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal

 

 

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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: #MeToo Again, plus Fake Encounters of the Media Kind”

  1. ashok759 says:

    What Gaurav Sawant is alleged to have done is a criminal act. It goes beyond the Vishakha guidelines. It is a measure of how unequal gender relations are that Ms Vidya Krishnan did not Report the matter to the local police. In fact, her account shows how vulnerable a young woman feels in such a situation, even with a man who is not her boss. The encounter ended because Mr Sawant concluded that he did not wish to go as far as actual violation. One would expect a more effective response from the India Today group.