NWMI statement on harassment and sensational, misleading reporting by TV channels
Late evening on April 12, 2013, a group of students from Nalsar Law University went to the Rain Club located in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, for what was meant to be a farewell party for the graduating seniors.
When they stepped out of the club around 10.30 pm to wait for their cab, one of the women students spotted someone taking their pictures with a mobile phone. She objected and demanded to see the mobile. The mobile turned out to be a dummy, without a card in it. When she further objected and demanded that the phone with which photos were taken be handed over, other media cameramen who were present began to film the altercation.
The students were outraged at this invasion of their privacy and the callous response of media cameramen who continued the harassment by following them to the car and persisting in filming them even as they were vehemently protesting this invasion.
The next morning several Telugu channels began showing the footage. Some websites also put up the footage. TV9, ABN Andhra Jyoti, Sakshi TV, Studio N, NTV, IdlyTV, News 24 and the following links which were still active till April 14, 2013 carried the footage:
A detailed report of the incident is already on the media watch website thehoot.org
The online petition drafted by the victims is available at www.change.org
The incident represents blatant sexual harassment of women in a public place, criminal intimidation of the women with threat of public defamation through media. The anchors of the channels repeatedly referred to the women as punch drunk, half naked, and nude, when the women students were dressed in strapless evening wear. One of the female anchors referred to their attire as "creepily offensive short clothes." They also claimed that they were dancing in the club although the entire story was played out on the street and not inside the club. The media persons were not present inside the club. To make matters worse, CVR News put together several clips of provocative dancing from various sources, implying that the present incident was somehow connected to those.
Significantly, while only a couple of channels were present outside the club and were involved in the incident, the story was generously shared with many other channels and web sites. All the channels replayed the footage provided by the offending channels without providing any opportunity for the victims of this coverage to respond or give their side of the story.
The channels also were assuming the tone of moral police, claiming that the students were “leaving Indian traditions in tatters by their dressing and behaviour". The anchors of the channels took on the role of moral police by commenting on the young girls' clothing, even as the channels' staple fare for advertising revenue on their news bulletins comprises song and dance sequences from films and film events featuring skimpily clad women doing vulgar dances to vulgar lyrics. The reporters and anchors held forth on excessive freedom for women and its “devastating” effects on society.
The channels also falsely claimed that the students' behaviour was condemned by women's organizations even though they only showed the statements of two little-known local politicians, thereby misleading public opinion.
This is a clear case of media grossly interfering in the privacy of individuals by photographing/filming people without their permission in a public place. When the students objected to the intrusion of their privacy, the media aggressively continued to shoot them and followed them with provocative words.
This appears to be in violation of items 4, 6, 1, and 2 of the News Broadcasters' Association's Code of Ethics for programming and also appears to be in violation of the programming code prescribed under the Cable Networks Regulation Act.
As media professionals who believe the news media have a responsibility to conduct themselves in accordance with the laws of the land and the ethics and standards of the profession, we are appalled at this misbehaviour by certain television channels.
We request you to call for the entire footage in possession of the channels and examine it as the voices of the cameramen and other men present seem to have been removed.
We request you to strongly censure the channels and websites for manufacturing a misleading and defamatory story by intruding into the privacy of the girls and publicly harassing and intimidating them.
We also request you to ensure that the channels involved in this misdemeanour are fined, made to apologize to the victims, and to carry the apology on channels (including their websites, if any) as prominently and as frequently as the coverage given to the incident.
We firmly believe that, without exemplary punishment, such television channels will continue their vigilante activities, which routinely target women and other vulnerable groups in society.
Looking forward to an early and appropriate response from you,
Signed, on behalf of the Network of Women in Media, India (www.nwmindia.org), by:
Pushpa Achanta, Bangalore
Gita Aravamudan, Bangalore
Neela Badami, Bangalore
Anita Cheria, Bangalore
Aditi De, Bangalore
Ammu Joseph, Bangalore
Revathi Siva Kumar, Bangalore
Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore
Susheela Nair, Bangalore
Kavitha Muralidharan, Chennai
Kavin Malar, Chennai
Lakshmy Venkiteswaran, Chennai
R Akhileshwari, Hyderabad
Lalita Iyer, Hyderabad
Manjari Kadiyala, Hyderabad
Satyavati Kondaveeti, Hyderabad
Padmaja Shaw, Hyderabad
Ranjita Biswas, Kolkata
Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata
Manjira Majumdar, Kolkata
Linda Chhakchhuak, Mizoram
Rupa Chinai, Mumbai
Ramlath Kavil, Mumbai
Sameera Khan, Mumbai
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai
Meena Menon, Mumbai
Jyoti Punwani, Mumbai
Geeta Seshu, Mumbai
Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai
Sandhya Srinivasan, Mumbai
Sandhya Taksale, Pune
Vanaja C, Hyderabad
April 18, 2013