The #MeToo movement that has hit the film industry also singed the media with journalist Prashant Jha stepping down on Monday as chief of bureau and political editor of Hindustan Times and the media house looking into the allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
The allegations concerning the media have surfaced over the past few days with several names, including some prominent ones, being mentioned in the social media. Journalist Sidharth Bhatia issued a statement rubbishing allegations against him. Women journalists have taken to the social media with their accounts of harassment inside and outside the newsrooms and some of them have posted snapshots of Whatsapp chats using Metoo hashtag.
Dinesh Mittal, Group general counsel HT media said that a sexual harassment committee was looking into the allegations made against Jha by a former colleague.
"It is proper that for fair investigation, till time the investigation is complete, he (Jha) doesn't have any managerial position. A sexual harassment committee with an external member is conducting a probe into the allegations against him," Mittal told IANS.
The allegations were that Jha sent inappropriate messages on WhatsApp to the accuser. Screenshots of the conversation with Jha were also posted on Twitter.
Prashant Jha is a scum, look at these sleazy advances pic.twitter.com/duZGp0j5Ml— Op-ed (@0penS0) October 6, 2018
Bhatia, a founder Editor of The Wire, said in his statement that he could not recall either the two women who had made the allegations or the incident they had mentioned.
"I forcefully deny the allegations," he said, adding that if the complainant comes up with further details, he was prepared to face an inquiry.
Several other allegations against senior journalists were made on the social media. Former DNA Editor-in-Chief Gautam Adhikari and TOI's Hyderabad Resident Editor K.R. Sreenivas also rubbished allegations against them. Allegations have also been made against Mayank Jain of Business Standard.
Meanwhile, the Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI), an organisation comprising women journalists, condemned "the rampant sexism and misogyny in Indian newsrooms" and demanded media organisations probe allegations and take appropriate actions.
"All media organisations, including journalism colleges and departments, journalist unions and press clubs, must take suo moto cognisance of the accounts of survivors, institute inquiries and take appropriate action," it said in a statement and encouraged more women to document their accounts without fear or inhibitions.
It also demanded that media organisations and journalism colleges should have policies to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace and set up properly constituted internal committees.
"In keeping with the Sexual Harassment 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," the statement said.
The campaign began days after former actor Tanushree Dutta accused thespian Nana Patekar of harassing her on the sets of a film 10 years ago. Two more film personalities, including filmmaker Vikas Bahl, have been named since.
Comic Utsav Chakraborty, author Chetan Bhagat and actor Rajat Kapoor have also been called out; all three have apologized. Comedy group AIB's two founder members have stepped down.
Many journalists have been listed in the hall of shame since Friday.
Sandhya Menon alleged harassment in 2005 and 2008 by an editor of the Times of India; the newspaper said the charge would be investigated by its committee against sexual harassment. "A highly empowered and accessible committee under this policy and under the law is in place to investigate and address all allegations of sexual harassment," said the media house in a statement, adding that the group was headed by a senior woman executive.