In the light of recent allegations of sexual harassment in Indian media, it is apparent that Indian newsrooms need to check the rampant sexism and misogyny in newsrooms. It is also necessary to put in place mechanisms that can control sexual harassment, victim blaming and moral policing.
Here are some steps newsrooms can take in order to create a safe workplace:
Set up Internal Complaints Committee
All media organisations and journalism colleges must have policies to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace and set up properly constituted Internal Committees (IC) in keeping with mandatory requirements of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, with every member trained to handle complaints.
All ICs must be headed by a woman, half the members must be women, and the ICs must have one impartial external woman expert in law or women’s rights. IC members must be accessible and empathetic to complaints and inquire into them in a time-bound manner, and managements must take prompt action based on the recommendations of the IC.
All media organisations must
- Create and put forward a detailed anti-sexual harassment policy
- Make sure employees are aware of the issue of sexual harassment
- Set up committees in the workplace that women workers can turn to if they have been sexually harassed
- Make sure committees are well-trained and well-staffed
- Prepare a yearly report and turn it over to the state government
Job Contracts: The consequences of sexual harassment must be clearly outlined in job contracts and code of conduct manuals.
For Freelancers/Stringers: In keeping with the SH Act, 2013, freelancers and stringers, who are among the most vulnerable to sexual harassment, given their job insecurity must also be brought under the purview of anti-sexual harassment policies and the jurisdiction of Internal Committees of the media houses they contribute to. (Network of Women in Media)
For more FAQs on how to deal with complaints, outcomes and disciplinary measure read a practical guide for employers by Wan-Ifra and Women in News.
Conduct trainings and workshops
All media organisations and journalism colleges must have policies for gender mainstreaming and also conduct gender sensitisation workshops at least twice a year in order to promote an atmosphere of gender equality and equity. All media organisations and journalism colleges should provide professional counselling to both complainants and those accused of sexual harassment.
Reporting on sexual violence
The allegations that have surfaced so far around #MeToo also merit journalistic follow-up. Instead of burying the story, big media/legacy organisations should follow up these stories in terms of reports with due diligence.
While reporting stories on sexual harassment, reporters should pay attention that the articles are free of
- victim blaming
- moral policing
- disempowering images
The media must shine the light on itself in order to break the entrenched impunity for perpetrators of sexual harassment at the workplace.
Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) and Gender at Work are also conducting a survey to check how effectively media houses across India are responding to the issue. The survey is designed for women working in media. The baseline data will enable NWMI to compile a report and other publicity material to campaign for more effective redressal mechanisms in order to create a workplace free from sexual harassment. You can participate in the survey here.