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NWMI condemns death and rape threats against journalist Thulasi Chandu

NWMI condemns death and rape threats against journalist Thulasi Chandu

Thulasi Chandu. Photo courtesy: Thulasi Chandu/ Facebook

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) strongly condemns the incessant online harassment and abuse of Hyderabad-based journalist Thulasi Chandu, which amounts to a hate campaign against her and includes threats of rape and murder.

The police has not taken action against the main perpetrators of this hate campaign though Thulasi had filed a complaint in January 2022, ie 18 months ago.

A journalist with 14 years of experience working with several major media houses such as Eenadu, Sakshi, and ABN Andhrajyothi, NWMI member Thulasi has received the prestigious Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity five times. She set up an independent YouTube channel in 2020, which was recognised as one of the best 50 upcoming channels by Unacademy’s Graphy select programme in 2021 and has a subscriber base of 1,82,000. Viewership of the videos ranges from 50,000 to 2,60,000 on a regular basis.

Thulasi’s videos are known to be well-researched and adhere to the highest standards of professional journalism. Her ordeal began within three months of launching her channel, when she put out a video in which she spoke about the communal overtones evident in the run-up to the Greater Hyderabad municipal elections. She was immediately attacked by trolls, with name-calling soon giving way to graphic rape and murder threats. It is clear that certain YouTube channels and social media users have made it a point to subject her – and anyone who supports her – to persistent, vicious abuse. It is important to note that the trolls do not challenge her on the facts presented in her videos. They distort and misinterpret them to make them appear anti-national and anti-Hindu, and indulge in false labelling, character assassination and threats of violence.

Although Thulasi filed a complaint with the cyber wing of the Hyderabad City Police in January 2022, no action has been taken against the main perpetrator who had been running a malicious campaign against her, even using morphed images to malign her. Despite providing evidence and despite the fact that Telangana’s Information Technology Minister, KT Rama Rao, tagged the DGP while retweeting her complaint, the police have not responded over the past 18 months.

Women journalists like Swathi Vadlamudi and Vanaja C, activists V Sandhya, Devi, Prof Sujata Surepally, and Khalida Parveen too have been subjected to relentless attacks over the last few years. Some of them have filed complaints with the Hyderabad city police, but no action has been taken so far.

This is despite the fact that the Hyderabad police have been publicly asking women to inform the cyber police in case of harassment. Why did they not act on the information provided by a woman journalist subjected to motivated political attacks aiming to not only demean and denigrate her but also discourage her from practising her profession?

After Thulasi’s emotional post on Facebook on June 24, in which she expressed her apprehension that she would one day be killed, and following the widespread support and solidarity she received in response, the police finally registered a fresh First Information Report (FIR 777/2023) on 26 June, naming three YouTube channels and a Facebook page which contain evidence of abusive and threatening behaviour online.

The NWMI co-organised a solidarity meeting for Thulasi in Hyderabad in association with the Telengana State Union of Working Journalists, Press Club of Hyderabad, Hyderabad Union of Journalists and the Telangana State Small and Medium Papers and Magazines Association on 27 June.

The NWMI stands by Thulasi Chandu and demands the following action by the Chief Minister and the Director General of Police of Telangana:

  • Take immediate action against the persons behind the YouTube channels and Facebook page named in the FIR.
  • Immediately establish a robust, responsive and transparent system to address complaints of online threats against women in general and women media persons in particular.

Swift and visible action by the authorities is urgently required to send out a message to the public that such online criminality will not be tolerated in Telangana, and that the state guarantees a conducive environment that enables media persons, especially media women, to practice their profession without harassment and threats.

The Network of Women in Media, India
29 June 2023

© 2024 Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI).

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