Journalists bodies condemn Tarun Tejpal, demand probe, prosecution
Journalists’ organizations demand criminal justice system take suo motu notice of it
New Delhi: Two journalists’ bodies today condemned the alleged “grave” sexual assault involving ‘Tehelka’ editor Tarun Tejpal against a woman journalist of his magazine and demanded a complete investigation and prosecution.
In a statement, Editors’ Guild of India President N Ravi said allegations of sexual assault made by a journalist of Tehelka against the magazine’s editor Tarun Tejpal are “on the face of it shocking and shameful.”
“Such incidents anywhere are condemnable in the strongest terms but the Guild is particularly saddened that they should engulf a media organisation”, he added. “It is emphatically the philosophy of the Guild that the media, that is the business of holding public persons accountable, should itself be held to the highest standards of conduct and decency,” the statement said.
“The conduct that has been alleged would constitute grave sexual assault at the very least, taking advantage of the authority and power of the perpetrator within the media organization,” it added.
It also brings out vulnerability of young women journalists who need to be protected and free to pursue their careers without the fear of being subjected to such assaults, it said.
The statement emphasized that there ought not to be any attempt to cover up or play down this “extremely serious incident”. “Self-proclaimed atonement and recusal for a period are hardly the remedies for what the allegations show to be outright criminality.
The full force of the law must be brought into its investigation and prosecution. Due regard must be paid to the sensitivity and privacy of the victim who has already been put to grievous suffering,” it added.
The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and its Gender and Ethics Councils also strongly condemned the alleged incident. “Tarun Tejpal’s statement admitting a ‘lapse of judgement’ and his self-declared sabbatical from editorship both confirms the allegation.
“It is clear that he stands in breach of the law,” DUJ said in a statement. “He has sought to make light of two incidents of molestation including one incident of digital (finger) rape as ‘drunken banter’ but in fact this appears to be a criminal act,” the DUJ statement added.
It further said that in his statement Tejpal has said that he is going to do penance that ‘lacerates’ him! “What about the lacerations of the girl’s psyche? Not to mention the violation of her bodily integrity.
His self laceration and penance notwithstanding, he must be made to answer the law”, the DUJ statement said. The DUJ acknowledged the outstanding role played by Tehelka through its bold journalism and regretted the impact this episode will have on the organization and journalists who work for it.
“Already beleaguered by charges of demanding bribes, of paid news and motivated sting operations, the media could have done without this ultimate charge of blatant misuse of power by a male owner/editor against a female colleague and employee,” DUJ said.
It added that despite the Supreme Court directions, most media institutions do not have a Committee against Sexual Harassment in place. The DUJ termned as “ambiguous” the stand of Tehelka Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury on the matter and added that an internal inquiry by a sexual harassment committee should have been instituted.
It said the media has deservedly been praised for its uncompromising stand and campaign against influential persons accused of sexual misconduct and it should live by the standards it has set for others.
The Press Club of India expressed shock over the alleged incident and added that it stood by the female journalist. “Along with the wider community of journalists, the Press Club of India will respect and support any decision she may take in this matter.
Whether or not she formally files a complaint with the police, criminal law has been violated. We demand that the criminal justice system take suo motu notice of it,” the Club said in a statement said.