Attacks on Media
Despite misogynistic abuse & difficulties, I am an unapologetic journalist07 Dec, 2022
Abuse in the workplace continues for journalists and media workers in India, with women journalists facing sexism and harassment. Senior journalist Indrani Sarkar describes her experiences navigating India’s media industry, and the struggles she has had to endure to exist as a critical and independent journalist.
They do not dare to publish my content and so I have chosen to work independently, mainly with media outlets that are willing to publish content critical of the government. I am direct, and I believe that you have to tell things as they are. The opposite is not journalism; it is public relations.
I believe in ethical journalism and working for the common good. Journalism, in my opinion, reflects society. That’s why I founded my own broadcasting company (Riaan Broadcasting Communications Pvt. Ltd.) to tell stories in black and white.
When I talk about the obstacles women face in reaching positions of responsibility in the corporate world, it brings up another big problem: harassment.
While there are now more complaints, abuse is far too common in the media industry. When our colleagues are victims of bullying and harassment, they are forced to leave the media because they know that complaints processes are time-consuming, that justice rarely provides them with a reason, and that the investigation, if there is one, will change the section of the stalker or her; most likely her. Often, victims prefer to leave, and, of course, if you constantly change your workplace it is impossible to advance a professional career within a medium.
In India, the government works like a dictatorship; it only accepts journalists to help it win votes. Otherwise, you’re out. We have published a lot of content revealing cases of money laundering, especially in the north of the country. In that region, anyone who mentions something against the government is considered a terrorist. Where is the right to freedom of the press, I wonder?
In my country, if you tell the truth, you risk being killed; if you are a woman, you also risk being physically assaulted. They threaten you and harass you on social media. On the contrary, those who reject critical journalism receive high praise from the government and are lavished with gifts. I don’t have those advantages, but I do journalism, and that’s enough for me.
Now that I’ve mentioned it, I can’t ignore the facts about how much I and other journalists suffer from online and offline bullying, harassment, filthy comments, and so on. While both male and female journalists face violence and threats to their safety because of their work, attacks on women are gendered and sexualized, both online and offline.
I’ve faced various forms of discrimination, and many female journalists face homophobia, racism, or faith-based discrimination in addition to gender-based violence. I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities because I refused to entertain some seniors, and as a result, I was rejected from certain assignments.
I have had to deal with online abuse, threats, and impersonation. In an ongoing incident, a so-called journalist from Bangladesh has harassed, blackmailed, and attempted to impersonate me using unauthorised logos, website designs and personal pictures, which he took from my Facebook profile. He has tried to duplicate everything from my personal and professional accounts. He has set up a website using the name of my broadcasting company and published some filthy articles alongside personal photographs. He has stalked and blackmailed me because of my entrepreneurship and journalism. I have had to contact police in India and Bangladesh to deal with this online attack and unwanted private social media messages.
Threats of rape, killing and other abuse send through messages, images, and memes are nowhere as visible as in the journalism and media industries. Women, unafraid to express their opinions and call out those in power face the worst of it. We are attacked and abused simply for doing our jobs. It is inexcusable that this occurs with impunity. Despite all these difficulties, I am an unapologetic journalist.
Indrani Sarkar is a senior Indian journalist, an executive committee member of the National Union of Journalists-India (NUJ-I), and the founder and director of Riaan.tv