The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) condemns the recent ‘coverage’ by certain Tamil news outlets of an incident at the Big Bull Lounge in Chennai. Not only was the incident misreported, women at the bar were sexually harassed, shamed and hounded by the camerapersons of Thanthi Tv, Polimer News and News Tamil 24*7, operating in paparazzi style. The reports aired the following morning focused largely on shaming the women for their attire and for drinking. Coverage of this kind can only be described as sexual harassment. The onus for this lies with the respective editors-in-chief of the three media outlets who have allowed, if not encouraged, lewd and sexualised reportage on their channels.
It is alarming and condemnable that none of these channels have so far acknowledged the misreporting and sexual harassment of multiple women who happened to be at the location that evening. Nor have they apologised for violating the privacy of the women, for attempting to broadcast their identities without their consent, and for hounding them with cameras while yelling obscene questions at them.
The channels claimed initially that the bar had been ‘raided’ by the police for defying noise limits and the mandated closing time in Tamil Nadu. This is contrary to the truth of what actually transpired. Investigation has revealed that the incident began with a scuffle between inebriated men who wanted to enter the bar and the staff of Big Bull Lounge on 19 November, the night of the World Cup final. The men were denied entry as they had arrived too late. When they attempted to force their way in, the bar staff phoned the police. Incensed by this, the men called a friend in the media and soon multiple news channels arrived on the spot. This scuffle has been documented on the CCTV cameras of the bar which NWMI has viewed. A cameraperson from News Tamil 24*7 is also visible in this footage.
The choice to consume alcohol or abstain is exclusively the decision of each individual. So is any person’s choice of clothes. The business of news media is to hold the powerful accountable and not to be moral police interfering with the private lives of citizens, particularly women. It is shameful that these channels have chosen to abuse the power and reach their roles as journalists give them.
We demand that the three news channels – Thanthi Tv, Polimer News and News Tamil 24*7 – issue public statements of apology to the victims of their unacceptable and unethical behaviour. They must also publicly acknowledge their misrepresentation of events and apologise for failing to comply with journalistic standards and ethics. A few of the offensive and slanderous videos have now been taken down but some reports still remain publicly accessible. We demand that all content, including social media posts and videos, relating to this sordid incident are taken down immediately, without any further delay.
The Network of Women in Media, India
24 November 2023