(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 08, 2013
Form Complaints Committees in Media Houses: DUJ
THROUGH its letters written to the Press Council of India (PCI), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Commission for Women (NCW), the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has demanded the setting up of an internal complaints committee in accordance with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, in every media organisation in the country, within a stipulated timeframe. The demand came in the wake of the growing number of cases of sexual assault and harassment taking place in media organisations.
In its letter released to the media on November 23, 2012 by it president Ms Sujata Madhok and general secretary Shailendra Kumar Pandey, the Delhi Union of Journalists expressed deep concern at the growing number of cases of sexual assault and harassment occurring in media organisations in the country. It is an unfortunate fact that many women employees feel insecure at work and are subject to harassment by way of inappropriate remarks, sexual innuendoes and demands for sexual favours in return for promotions and plum assignments. Such demands often lead to actual physical harassment and assault as well. The DUJ therefore said it was high time that media organisations take this problem seriously, devise preventive strategies, create redressal mechanisms and foster a non-sexist culture at the workplaces. “The message must go out loud and clear to all employees, including managers, editors and others in authority, that sexual harassment will not be tolerated,” the letter said.
While demanding that every media organisation must immediately set up an Internal Complaints Committee within a stipulated timeframe, in accordance with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, the DUJ also stressed that information regarding this committee should be circulated to all employees and that its rulings on complaints should be made public. Managements must not shield those who use their positions of power to prey upon their juniors. They must protect and defend the rights of those who are vulnerable. Women who file complaints must be assured that their employment is not at risk. At least the Vishaka guidelines must be honoured in workplace.
The letter pointed out that as the Tehelka episode has revealed, most of the media organisations have no mechanisms to address such complaints. If some of them have set up internal complaints committees post facto, this is open to criticism that these committees have handpicked members who may favour the accused, casting doubts on the impartiality of the outcome of such complaints.
The DUJ has further demanded that all media organisations ensure the safety of employees working in late night shifts by providing them safe transport to their homes. “The practice of out-contracting the transport arrangements endangers the safety of employees and should be curbed,” the letter added.
The DUJ was very clear that the onus of providing a safe working environment in which the best journalism can flourish lies on the owners, managers and editors of media establishments.
While the DUJ is monitoring the situation in Tehelka where some action is in progress following the FIR, it has called for immediate steps to end the rot in the media.