Before I unfold my experiences as a reporter, I have to confess, and perhaps thank my guru, that I have never had any unpleasant experience even though one has covered just about every beat under varying circumstances. What’s more, one was the only woman reporter covering politics and business when one started out in the sixties in the Ananda Bazaar Patrika, thanks to the liberal and progressive owner-editor Ashok Sarkar who believed in merit and not gender. So whether it was riots -- of which there were many in those days -- slum issues, or elections in far corners of the country, one did it all.
I remember landing in a village at one in the morning as the STC bus was delayed -- there were no cell phones in those days -- and being befriended by a total stranger. He took me to his home for the night and I was welcomed by his smiling family when I woke up the next morning. It never ever occurred to me not to trust anyone. And yet not once has one ever experienced any gender discrimination, bias or violence in any form. On the contrary, one has never hesitated to say that one flowered as a journalist because one was the sum total of all the help and enlightenment one got from colleagues, ‘sources’ and strangers who are the mainstay of a reporter’s baggage.
But today, though one has still not had any bad experience, one would think ten times before accepting the hospitality of a stranger if one was stranded on an assignment at one in the morning anywhere. One is now even wary of travelling in a train after 9 PM, specially when the compartment is empty and this, for a journalist, is really bad news as freedom of movement is paramount.
Earlier there was not a care. One is nostalgic as that halcyon, carefree light-hearted era in terms of personal security, that made reporting and chasing challenging stories such fun, has more or less vanished. Reporters, and today there are more women in the field than men, have to work under any circumstances at any time of the day or night. It is scary. You never know who is going to attack you, apart from passing lewd comments. Today there is no respect for a journalist as there was in earlier times.
Security is an issue and needs to be tackled in a positive manner by the print and electronic media managements so that they don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. It should not be an occasion to discriminate on the basis of gender in allocating duties.
Things can only get worse as there is a breakdown of governance and ethics in every sphere of life, rational social mores, the irrational penchant for all that is degenerate but wrapped in glamour and mistaken progressiveness from the West. The worst culprit is the Hindi and regional cinema. One has never seen anything more vulgar and denigrating of women than the song and dance numbers, where women are always performing for the men, the way heroes and non-heroes, leer at and stalk heroines and women. One can go on and on, but you get the drift.
That the violence has now reached its own people, is a reflection of the failure of the media to nip the underlying unfriendly-to-women environment in the bud. The media too has been purveying all that is titillating, degenerate, cheap and vacuous, even in supposed debates. It is not seen as a bulwark of support for all that is good and just, except by fits and starts, but never in a sustained manner. The media which is considered the fourth estate and therefore gets a lot of privileges, has merrily looked away as governance has broken down in every sphere of life. Maybe the change should start at home!
A shorter, edited version of this appears in print.
Olga Tellis is a veteran journalist
One did it all, did one?
Does one sound pompous on person or is one unaware that one does?
One did it all did one?
Does one sound pompous on purpose or is one unaware that one does?
Why peeve about, when even PM is disrespected
in the house of Parliament?
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