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Media houses told to reject Sabarimala Karma Samithi "misogyny" in deploying journos

Counterview Desk
The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), strongly reacting to the Sabarimala Karma Samithi -- which wrote to editor’s news media owners, asking them to refrain from deputing women of certain age groups from reporting on Sabarimala on November 5, when a special puja was to take place -- has said that all media houses should refuse to entertain such "misogyny" and to "deploy the best journalist for the job, not limiting the choice to men.”
“We also demand the state and the police should give sufficient protection to every reporter, of all gender identities,” the statement says, adding, the Samithi has no right to “interfere with the media and prevent journalists who happen to be women from doing their jobs.”
Women journalists reportedly faced threats at Sabarimala gates when these were scheduled to re-open. They were hit, heckled, and the cars they were travelling in destroyed. Those who faced such attacks included TNM’s Saritha Balan, Republic TV’s Pooja Prasanna, India Today’s Mausami Singh, CNN News18’s Radhika Ramaswamy and NDTV’s Sneha Koshy. The National Commission of Women chairperson Rekha Sharma asked Kerala DGP Loknath Behera to take appropriate action.

Text of the NWMI statement:

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) strongly objects to the statement issued by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi on November 3, 2018, to editors and decision-makers in the news media, requesting them to refrain from deputing women journalists of a particular age group to Sabarimala to cover the reopening of the temple for a special puja on Monday (November 5). We believe this is an unjustified and unacceptable interference in the functioning of the media and an unfair obstacle in the way of journalists –who happen to be women– who wish to cover an important story of public interest.
When the temple opened for monthly puja for five days in October - the first time it was opening after the Supreme Court order lifting the ban on the entry of girls and women in the age group of 10-50 - women reporters attempting to cover the historic occasion were heckled, and both they and their vehicles were attacked, by protesters opposing any change in the status quo. Female devotees in the hitherto proscribed age group were also subjected to harassment and forced to abandon their efforts to reach the temple to pray.
While claiming to recognise the media's right to support or oppose the stand of devotees on this issue, the Samithi requests the media "to take a sympathetic approach to the feelings and aspirations of crores of devotees" and "refrain from deputing women journalists of the above-mentioned age group to Sabarimala." It is significant that it places the onus of "maintaining peace and harmony at the Holy Shrine of Sabarimala" and not aggravating the situation on the media. As a joint platform made up of organisations opposing the entry of women and trying to ensure that the Supreme Court's judgement cannot be implemented, it is they who are in a position to ensure that the protest remains peaceful and violates neither the fundamental rights of female devotees who wish to worship at the temple and nor of female reporters who wish to cover the story.
We believe the Samithi's stand amounts to depriving women journalists of their right to respond to the call of professional duty and responsibility. It also goes against the freedom of expression and right to information that are fundamental rights to which all citizens are entitled. The Samithi and others who oppose the Supreme Court's verdict are welcome to make use of the legal options available to them to pursue their goals. They have no right to interfere with the media and prevent journalists who happen to be women from doing their jobs. Worse, in effect, it amounts to an open threat from the Samithi to women journalists.
We believe editors must not allow veiled threats from various organisations to determine how the media goes about its duty to report on events and processes about which citizens have a right to know.
NWMI requests all media houses to refuse to entertain such misogyny and to deploy the best journalist for the job, not limiting the choice to men.
We also demand the state and the police should give sufficient protection to every reporter, of all gender identities.

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