Tag Archive for Tehelka sexual assault

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.

Tehelka sexual assault: Woman journalist issues fresh statement, slams politicians


The woman journalist who accused former Tehelka Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal of sexually assaulting her issued a new statement today slamming politicians for using her case in their pre-election agendas

I am heartened by the broad support I have received over the past fortnight. However, I am deeply concerned and very disturbed by insinuations that my complaint is part of a pre-election political conspiracy.

I categorically refute such insinuations and put forward the following arguments:
The struggle for women to assert control over their lives and their bodies is most certainly a political one, but feminist politics and its concerns are wider than the narrow universe of our political parties. Thus, I call upon our political parties to resist the temptation to turn a very important discussion about gender, power and violence into a conversation about themselves.

Suggestions that I am acting on someone else’s behest are only the latest depressing indications that sections of our public discourse are unwilling to acknowledge that women are capable to making decisions about themselves for themselves.

In this past week, television commentators who should know better, have questioned my motivations and my actions during and after Mr. Tejpal molested me. Some have questioned the time it took for me to file my complaint, more inquisitive commentators have questioned the use of the word “sexual molestation” versus words like “rape.”

Perhaps the hardest part of this unrelentingly painful experience has been my struggle with taxonomy. I don’t know if I am ready to see myself as a “rape victim”, or for my colleagues, friends, supporters and critics to see me thus. It is not the victim that categorizes crimes: it is the law. And in this case, the law is clear: what Mr. Tejpal did to me falls within the legal definition of rape.

Now that we have a new law that broadens the definition of rape, we should stand by what we fought for.

We have spoken, time and again, about how rape is not about lust or sex, but about power, privilege and entitlement.

Thus this new law should be applicable to everybody – the wealthy, the powerful, and the well connected – and not just to faceless strangers.

As seen by some of the responses to this case, instances of familial and custodial rape present doughty challenges to even the most adamantine feminists.

Unlike Mr. Tejpal, I am not a person of immense means. I have been raised singlehandedly by my mother’s single income. My father’s health has been very fragile for many years now.

Unlike Mr. Tejpal, who is fighting to protect his wealth, his influence and his privilege, I am fighting to preserve nothing except for my integrity and my right to assert that my body is my own and not the plaything of my employer. By filing my complaint, I have lost not just a job that I loved, but much-needed financial security and the independence of my salary. I have also opened myself to personal and slanderous attack. This will not be an easy battle.

In my life, and my writings, I have always urged women to speak out and break the collusive silence that surrounds sexual crime. This crisis has only confirmed the myriad difficulties faced by survivors. First, our utterances are questioned, then our motivations, and finally our strength is turned against us: a politician will issue a statement claiming that speaking out against sexual violence will hurt our professional prospects; an application filed in the Delhi High Court will question why the victim remained “normal”.

Had I chosen silence in this instance, I would not have been able to face either myself or the feminist movement that is forged and renewed afresh by generations of strong women.

Finally, an array of men of privilege have expressed sorrow that Tehelka, the institution, has suffered in this crisis. I remind them that this crisis was caused by the abusive violence of the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, and not by an employee who chose to speak out.

Thank you everyone for your support.

Sexual assault case: Tehelka sets up inquiry committee


In the wake of the alleged sexual assault of a Tehelka journalist by her editor, the magazine institutes a Complaint Committee to conduct inquiry

By Team FI

Following media reports and protests regarding the weekly news magazine Tehelka’s response to the accusation of assault and sexual harassment made against its editor Tarun Tejpal, the managing editor of Tehelka, Shoma Chaudhury, has released a statement stating that “Tehelka has now constituted a formal complaints committee, in accordance to Vishaka guidelines.”

As per the mail send by an employee to the managing editor of the magazine, Shoma Chaudhary, the assault took place on November 7 and 8 during the Tehelka Think Tank, held in Panaji, Goa. Tejpal had allegedly accosted the employee in a lift while returning from their professional duties. It is clear from the allegations made in the complaint letter that Tarun Tejpal had threatened the employee that complying to him would mean keeping her job, ““Well, this is the easiest way for you to keep your job,” he had stated when she protested against the assault.

The management had referred to the sexual assault issue as an “internal” matter and Tarun Tejpal had recused himself from the magazine for six months for “atonement and penance.” This despite the fact that the complainant had asked the management for an inquiry to be conducted into the matter.

Organisations such as the Network of Women in Media (NWMI) and the Indian Women’s Press Corps had condemned the incident and the management response to it. NWMI had in a press release stated that Tarun Tejpal’s “actions go beyond sexual harassment and fall under the definition of sexual assault, according the new Criminal Law Amendment, 2013.” The organisation rejecting his offer of atonement demanded that, “Institutional mechanisms must be set in place to investigate the complaint of sexual assault, prosecute the perpetrator, and deal with future cases.”

NWMI stated that according to law the employer is responsible for ensuring an environment free of sexual harassment and is legally bound to assist any employee who wishes to pursue criminal prosecution. A fact that management at Tehelka had failed to do.

A suo moto “preliminary inquiry” has also been ordered by the Goa government on Thursday, 21st November into the allegations. The Goa Police has asked for a copy of this complaint to be handed over to them since that is needed for the FIR to be registered. They also pointed out that Shoma Chaudhary should have brought the complaint to the police as she was “legally bound to”.

Sexual harassment cases have being increasing visible with complaints being made against media houses, politicians and even the judiciary. Pointing out the recent experiences in Sun TV, Doordarshan and All India Radio, which has revealed that not only private media organisations but even the state/public broadcasters were not compliant with the law, the NWMI had demanded that “a Complaints Committee be set up by all media houses, including Tehelka, to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace.”

According to Chaudhary’s statement, Tehelka’s complaints committee “is to be presided over by Urvashi Butalia, eminent feminist and publisher, to investigate the matter. The other members of the committee will be announced shortly. In addition to this, Tehelka will ensure setting up a formal complaints committee, according to section 4 of the Sexual Harassment of Women (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013), an institutional mechanism that was sorely missing in Tehelka.”