Tehelka as a metaphor for what's wrong

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 22, 2013 07:16 hrs

A very high profile sexual harassment case has come to light against long-time crusader Tarun Tejpal, the head honcho of Tehelka magazine. While we journalists pontificate a lot and always take the moral high ground while preaching almost anything, when it comes to action, many a time we fall short.

Media organizations in many ways react in exactly the same way which non-media organizations would do so. For example, based on the leaked official emails that are floating around in cyberspace, it appears that Tehelka Editor Shoma Chaudhury is trying to give a quick burial to this case like any other regular boss would do in any office that may be found all across India.

A look at her Twitter timeline @ShomaChaudhury is quite telling… On November 13 she Tweeted… Ranjit Sinha should lose his job for his remark on enjoying rape. Is appalling that he can even think of defending such a remark

It is amazing that she thinks that the CBI director should lose his job over a remark on rape while Tejpal should go on leave for six months for actual sexual harassment! The ironies that can be found on Twitter are simply amazing!

On April 2 she Tweeted

These bestial rapes will not stop till we address a whole lot of difficult issues for which we are all to blame. Stronger laws only one part

This is a prophetic Tweet indeed for “we are all to blame” includes Shoma herself who should probably have immediately set up an enquiry to look into the allegations and then made a police case out of it. She seems to have chosen extremely weak laws to punish Tejpal!

On the same day she Tweeted

Most rapes are by family or nbeghbours. They r mostly not reported to protect honour. If death sentences come, families wil report even less

Another prophetic Tweet for here is another case totally within the Tehelka family and it seems she is choosing to protect the Tehelka honour over actual justice being done. Is that why she advocates a light sentence for Tejpal?

The truth is that any media office in India is just like any non-media office with the same politics, up-manship, work pressures and of course hostility towards women.

I have worked in the Delhi newspaper industry there were rumours of sexual harassment. They usually used to die out without any evidence of concrete action being taken. Like the casting couch, there were also a lot of tales of the editor’s couch, but that’s another story.

The only difference now is that social media has made it impossible to hide such things. This is all the more so because mainstream media has become hostile towards social media.

That’s another thing which editors share with the top echelons of the rest of society. Most politicians hate social media. Most editors hate social media. One national editor even declared publicly that not only would he stay off forums like Twitter, but would also discourage his employees to get on it!

The problem is that in the past editors and reporters used to live in their ivory towers and were totally cut-off from the aam aadmi. They cannot take close-range criticism 24X7. The same can be said of politicians too.

There are many more ethical conundrums at play…

What is the difference between a Congress President making her son Vice President and a TV Editor making his wife Deputy Editor?

What is the difference between Sonia Gandhi holding on to her post for 15 years and a national Editor holding his post for an even longer time than that despite his newspaper sales plummeting with each passing year?

What’s the difference between a political dynasty, a business dynasty and a journalistic dynasty?

There’s also the issue of conflict of interest which is a huge problem in India. But how many journalists have parents in political families? How many editors have stakes in companies? How many owners have close links with politicians and industrialists?

There is a conflict of interest in reporting conflict of interest.

As a famous editor said of politicians…

Hamaam main sab nanga. (Everyone is naked in the bathroom)

What he didn’t say was that not only are there many politicians in the bathroom, but many editors too!

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