Archive for April 2, 2014

What do Tejpal supporters choose to see?

Tarun -Tejpal -rape -case

Feminists analyse flaws in the arguments made in support of Tarun Tejpal in media and social networks by those who have illegally watched sub judicial CCTV footage

By Team FI

Two well known feminists, Vrinda Grover and Kavita Krishnan have responded to an ongoing campaign in media and social networks that is seeking to malign the survivor in the Tarun Tejpal rape case.

Tarun Tejpal, who was the editor of Tehelka magazine, is alleged to have sexually assaulted his junior journalist in a lift in a Goa Hotel. The past few days have seen subtle and direct statements that seek support for Tejpal based on the CCTV footage of the survivor and Tejpal outside the lift. While senior journalists Manu Joseph and Seema Mustafa wrote articles dissecting the incident in favour of the accused, well known film maker Anurag Kashyap accused the survivor of not telling the truth – they all were basing their opinions on the CCTV footage they saw. The campaign coincides with a bail application made to the Supreme Court.

By Vrinda Grover
The CCTV footage has been shown to many carefully identified and selected persons in the media and influential and powerful persons, by family and close coterie of friends of Tarun Tejpal. This is in violation of the law and the order of the court. Yes, the family has a right to defend Tarun Tejpal, but not by committing unlawful and illegal acts.

The young woman journalist does not have a copy of the CCTV footage. Only the Prosecution and the defence have copies. I have not seen the CCTV footage. No one who has taken a public or private position asking for justice for the young woman journalist and asked for a fair trial, not prejudiced or overawed by the campaign conducted by Tarun Tejpal gang, has seen the CCTV footage. We are not supposed to see that footage because it reveals the identity of the woman journalist. That is the law. Can we leave some decisions to the court or do the English writing glitterati want to usurp the role of the Court, much like the khap panchayats.

Yes, we must debate issues and cases of public importance. I do not support a gag order of any kind. Not even the one imposed by the Delhi High Court in favour of the former Supreme Court Judge in the case of the law intern.

The entire campaign hinges on the ‘young woman’s character’, which when decoded means the same old thing, her past sexual relationships

On each occasion the friends and family of Tarun Tejpal have orchestrated a media campaign against the young woman journalist. Please note, the modern day, English speaking or rather writing, khap panchayats have ruled in favor of Tarun Tejpal on precisely the same grounds. The woman complainant appears ‘normal’, it must be consensual. Bingo!

What is the “reasonable conduct” of a survivor of rape or sexual assault or sexual harassment or sexual abuse? Jurisprudence in India will have to be engendered, to understand and comprehend this.

Is it a coincidence that these articles appear at a juncture when a bail petition will be moved for Tarun Tejpal in the Supreme Court? I firmly believe that under-trials have a right to bail. However, the jails are overcrowded with an under-trial population that is disproportionately POOR. Where the accused persons can threaten witnesses, or tamper with evidence or use their position to cause prejudice to a fair trial, their liberty is constrained through denial of bail. We do not have a witness-victim protection mechanism that offers any real security to the complainants and so at times bail should be refused.

We live in a real world where power, influence and position, can and does manipulate and subvert and truth. It appears that at times these results can be achieved even when the person is in custody. Even as the law stands by, as a mere spectator, indifferent to its promise to protect the woman’s dignity.
Also to all my friends and fellow travelers who are secular activists, anti-communal campaigners and civil libertarians, I have not overnight become naive, nor have I succumbed to some victim’s story. I am thinking with the same clarity, mental agility, and political astuteness, with which i engage with the Ishrat Jahan case, or Soni Sori, or the Muzaffarnagar gang rapes. In my struggle against fascism, I do not prioritize rights or victims. At the core of my politics lies freedom of all, including women.

By Kavita Krishnan
Mr Anurag Kashyap,
You say “I have seen the CCTV footage too and none of what the girl says about Tarun Tejpal is true”…Who showed you the footage? I and most people haven’t seen the footage – rightly so, because legally we can’t. So is the footage being shown to selected individuals in the media, the film world?

Does the footage show what happened inside the lift? You cite Manu Joseph’s piece in Outlook. That piece, that so insidiously builds sympathy for Tejpal, says about the footage:”Nothing in the young woman’s body language indicates sexually potent conversation…They are not walking hand in hand, rather Tejpal is leading her and she is following him…they are separated by the whole width of the lift, which is about five feet. There is an unhappy tension between them as they walk out….Also there is not a moment in the footage that shows the young woman exhibiting anything resembling physical affection for Tejpal.”

How do I break this to you – rape survivors don’t behave like women in the Hindi films…They don’t rush out of lifts yelling Bachao

Yes, they act ‘normal’. Yes, they try to appear as though nothing happened. The more so when the violator is someone they know, trust, and who has power over them (is a family member, family friend, boss, teacher etc…), when the consequence of making the violation public might mean loss of a job, loss of cherished friendships, relationships.

No, raped women don’t usually use martial arts on their violators, they try to get the trusted person violating them, to stop, they hope the problem will go away, they agonise long and hard about the consequences before they complain. If the father of a friend rapes a woman, if a husband of a friend molests someone, the survivors worry about the impact of the incident on their friend, their friendship.

They hope, against hope that the person will apologise, and stop. And yes, in my experience, most survivors of gender violence forget or misremember small details – that’s because of the stark, traumatic impact of the LARGE detail of having been raped, of being told that to keep their job they must now subject to sex with the boss, the more so if the rapist is not a stranger but someone known and trusted.

Manu Joseph writes about the ‘fingertips’ sms that it could have been the words of a drunken man who thinks he’s flirting. Yes, arrogant rapists have been known to boast that the woman they raped enjoyed it.

Honey Singh’s songs tell us of that mindset quite eloquently. Did the footage as seen by Joseph suggest any flirtation on part of the woman?! No? Tejpal’s own letter admits the woman’s ‘clear reluctance’, and that he invoked his being her boss. He claims he withdrew the latter remark with a clear, cogent statement. If he wants us to believe that’s true, then he clearly wasn’t so drunk as to not recognise that she was unhappy and felt imposed upon. AFTER this exchange, how could anyone believe that a sms by Tejpal saying ‘fingertips’ is ‘flirting’?!

The many respondents on your post Mr Kashyap, who say ‘We know the complainant, impossible for her to be raped’ are displaying classic, textbook victim-blaming tactics. No, it’s not ‘impossible’ for ANY woman to be raped – her being modern, emancipated, strong (even learning martial arts) can’t be a guarantee that she won’t be raped – especially by someone she knows, trusts and who has power over her.

The good part here, Mr Kashyap, is that your macho image of ‘man who makes film to inspire women to take up martial arts to resist rape’ has been taken down – by you yourself. You now stand exposed as a common or garden variety misogynist who thinks it’s the complainant who is ‘the accused’ and who is on trial.

Tarun Tejpal’s coterie is set to malign his sexual assault survivor, allege women journalists

Tarun Tejpal case

By Team FI
The Network of Women in Media, India, an independent body of women journalists writes to the Press Council Chairman Justic Katju drawing his attention to certain publications against the young journalist who had shown the courage to complain about the alleged sexual assaults by her powerful and influential Editor, Tarun Tejpal. The Press Council of India is a statutory body that governs the conduct of the media in the country.

Feministsindia is reproducing the full text of the letter here:

Dear Justice Katju,

The Network of Women in Media, India is deeply concerned about what appears to be a renewed media campaign that threatens the course of justice in the sexual assault and rape case involving the former editor of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal.

In this connection we would like to call the attention of the PCI to two recent articles on the subject in two publications, The Citizen and Outlook. The article in the former, headlined“Alleged victim’s testimony in the Tarun Tejpal case at variance with CCTV footage”(http://thecitizen.in/city/alleged-victims-testimony-in-the-tarun-tejpal-case-at-variance-with-cctv-footage/), which originally appeared under the byline of senior journalist Seema Mustafa, was later credited, on 31 March evening, to ‘Citizen Bureau’. The article in the latter, headlined“What the elevator saw” (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?289993 ), is by senior journalist Manu Joseph.

While ostensibly seeking to set the record straight, both articles are clearly biased in favour of the accused and seem to be a deliberate attempt to adversely influence public opinion against the complainant. Indeed, these articles appear to follow the familiar Standard Operating Procedure to silence women in cases of sexual violence, and bolster the impunity of perpetrators.

Further, both build their identical cases on the basis of CCTV footage that is not meant to be in the public realm. There is a trial court order that clarifies that it is illegal to show, see and write about the footage, which is one of several items of evidence in an ongoing court case dealing with charges of rape. It must be emphasised that the CCTV grab is just one piece of evidence, among many others, in the case. By presenting poor quality visuals as clinching evidence of innocence or guilt, credibility or implausibility – of the accused or the accuser – the articles fall short of journalistic standards and ethics. Any pre-trial article that does not analyse all the evidence related to the case is clearly prejudicial and unfair.

In addition, putting this footage – and detailed descriptions of it – into the public domain is a violation of the legal and ethical restrictions on reporting on cases of sexual violence, which aim to protect the privacy and dignity of victims and survivors by maintaining confidentiality and protecting their identities.

The articles also quote from the e-mail in which the young journalist informed her editor about her experience and asked for appropriate action to be taken by the company. This was a private communication between an employee and her supervisor, providing details that do not belong in the public sphere, and ought to be used, if at all, only with the author’s written consent.

To make matters worse, the articles also mention Tejpal’s references to “sexually potent conversation” and “highly erotic stories” as if these are incontrovertible facts. The article in The Citizen claims that “The Citizen is not repeating these, as while she has not denied the conversation, it is outside the realm of this report.” This apparently principled stand is belied by the fact that the article clearly suggests that the complainant told “highly erotic stories” to the accused, thus attempting to build the case for a consensual sexual encounter, when in fact the complainant has clearly stated in no uncertain terms that she did not consent, which means that any sexual act committed on her amounts to rape.

While commenting on a matter that is now in the courts, journalists would do well to acquaint themselves with the new Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013. The interpretations of the visuals made in the two articles are not in accordance with the new provision (Explanation 2) on consent, which specifically states that lack of physical resistance is not enough to prove consent. Secondly, according to Sec. 53A in the Indian Evidence Act, for cases of all sexual offences, evidence of the character of the victim or of such person’s previous sexual experience with any person shall not be relevant on the issue of such consent or the quality of consent. Also, the new Proviso added to Sec. 146 of the Evidence Act states that in rape trials the “general immoral character or previous sexual experience” of the victim is not relevant and that, to determine the question of consent, it is not permissible to adduce evidence or to put questions in the cross examination of the victim about the “general immoral character or previous sexual experience” of the victim (whether to prove consent or the quality of consent).

The article in The Citizen also makes apparently contradictory and confusing references to what the so-called CCTV footage records and does not record. In the absence of CCTV confirmation of alleged amicable chatting, the piece cites “a hotel staffer” who was “apparently” “passing by,” “saw the two chatting and has given a statement to this effect.” Such hearsay touted as ‘evidence’ is against all norms and ethics of professional journalism.

As media professionals we are shocked and disturbed by these articles by senior journalists which appear to be part of an orchestrated campaign to prejudice the ongoing case and discredit the young journalist who accused her boss of sexual violence that amounts to rape under the new amendment passed in April 2013.

Clearly, the controversy over when a legitimate and ethical, if aggressive, pursuit of truth in the interest of justice turns into an illegitimate, unprincipled trial by media that can result in miscarriage of justice raises troublesome questions to which there are no easy answers, but certainly call for serious reflection. Senior members of the profession, who serve as examples to younger media practitioners, need to be particularly conscious about the grave consequences of thoughtless or irresponsible journalism, even if well-intentioned.

We reiterate that the case against Tarun Tejpal must be fought in court, not in the media, and certainly not through illegal or unethical means. We would also like to highlight the fact that the news media are meant to speak truth to power, not to misuse power on behalf of the powerful against the powerless.

We trust that the Press Council of India will immediately look into this matter and take appropriate action, including censuring the concerned publications, demanding an apology and preventing the circulation of such unethical pieces of journalism.

With kind regards and thanks for your attention,

Yours faithfully,

The undersigned, on behalf of the Network of Women in Media, India

Ammu Joseph, Bangalore
Geeta Seshu, Mumbai
Sameera Khan, Mumbai
Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore
Sharmila Joshi, Mumbai
Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata
Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai
Sandhya Taksale, Pune
Gita Aravamudan, Bangalore
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai
Kaumudi Gurjar, Pune
Pushpa Achanta, Bangalore
Ramlath Kavil, Mumbai/Berlin
Ranjita Biswas, Kolkata
Rupa Chinai, Mumbai
Sandhya Srinivasan, Mumbai
Swapna Majumdar, New Delhi
Vasanthi Hariprakash, Bangalore
Vidya Venkat, New Delhi
Gauri Vij, Mumbai
And others.