The National Workshop on Women in Journalism held in New Delhi (January 28-30, 2002) brought together more than 100 women journalists from 16 centres across the country.
The following issues of concern were identified:
- Globalisation has adversely impacted issues of social and gender justice. In conjunction with increased commercialisation of the media, this has enhanced job insecurity.
- It has also reduced space in the mainstream media for social and developmental issues.We note with great concern that rights and benefits gained by journalists through painstaking and long struggles have been snatched away in this process.
- Though the number of women in the media across the country has increased, their working conditions have in many instances actually deteriorated.
- In addition, women face varying forms of harassment and exploitation.
- We note with particular concern the change in labour laws, the shift towards contractual employment and the overall shrinkage of employment benefits, including maternity benefits.
- The condition of regional language journalists and those in the small and independent press is of particular concern in this regard.
- We are also perturbed that the Working Journalists Act 1955 has not yet been amended to cover employees of the electronic and other new media.
- The decline in accountability and responsibility of media organisations towards their workforce and towards society in general is another area of concern.
- We believe that standards of professional ethics and behaviour have taken a beating, particularly in the last decade. This has eroded the credibility of the media, which has an important role to play as the Fourth Estate.
Given these concerns, we believe that there is urgent need for building solidarities and alliances among journalists and other democratic groups and fora. Our Network of Women in Media, India is a crucial step in this direction. Some of the steps we believe should be urgently taken are:
- Media organisations must incorporate gender justice and equity in all organisational policies.
- All benefits and employment rights of women journalists must be protected.
- The Supreme Court directive on sexual harassment (a.k.a. the Vishakha case) must be implemented by media organisations.
- Media should increase and improve coverage of gender and developmental issues.
- Media organisations and journalists should evolve and observe appropriate codes of ethics that are sensitive to gender and other critical issues.
- Organisations that protect the rights of media workers and institutions that uphold the independence and integrity of the media must be strengthened.
(Drafted by a team of volunteers, endorsed by all participants and presented at the valedictory function on the last day of the national workshop on / for women in journalism, Delhi, January 2002)