The NWMI Demands Visibility, Equity and Safety for Media Women

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), concluded its 14th national meeting in New Delhi on 3 February 2019 with a renewed resolve to continue calling upon media organisations to consciously and effectively promote the Constitutional value of gender equality in media workplaces and media content. 

Nearly 150 media women from 21 states attended the three-day meeting held at Jamia Millia Islamia, titled ‘Making Gender Count: Towards Visibility, Equity and Safety’. Among them were Adivasi and Dalit journalists as well as journalists from Jammu and Kashmir (including Ladakh), Manipur, Nagaland, Bastar and remote parts of Odisha. The growing number and diversity of network members makes the importance of diversity in media workplaces and content an article of faith for the NWMI.

The NWMI, launched in Delhi at the first-ever national gathering of media women in 2002, returned to the capital after 17 years, at a time when the spectre of sexual harassment in media workplaces has finally been yanked out of the shadows and revealed as a rampant, ugly reality.  A survey on media house compliance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 - released at a public meeting on 2 February - has revealed that the law is still not being implemented in most media workplaces in letter or spirit. 

A session on covering elections as if women matter highlighted the fact that much remains to be done to ensure that election coverage is inclusive, acknowledging female voters as equal citizens and the poor representation of women in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, as well as in decision making positions within political parties, as a serious democratic deficit that needs to be urgently addressed by all  parties in view of the upcoming general elections.  

Another session highlighted the many important events and issues that remain largely uncovered or partially covered by the media, including those concerning Dalits, Adivasis, ethnic and religious minorities, people who are economically vulnerable and/or living in remote or conflict-prone areas and, of course, women belonging to these marginalised groups. 

A study on the representation of women in TV news debates and talk shows - released on 1 February - clearly established the widespread prevalence of "manels" and the relative absence of women's voices and views in media discussions on important current events and concerns.

The increasing vulnerability of female reporters to physical violence in the course of doing their work (in certain situations specifically targeted as women), harassment in the form of defamation cases and other legal action meant to stifle freedom of expression and, of course, online abuse (often gendered and sexual in nature) were also discussed. The responsibility of media organisations towards employees as well as freelance journalists working for them who are slapped with criminal and civil cases was flagged as an important concern.

The NWMI calls upon media organisations, especially decision makers within them, to recognise that gender equality is a fundamental right, and that ensuring inclusive and safe workplaces (within and outside offices), as well as gender aware and balanced coverage of events and issues, are Constitutional obligations that they are duty bound to seriously strive to fulfil. 

New Delhi, 4 February 2019