Thirteenth National NWMI Meet Pledges to Challenge Insecurity and Vulnerability in the Media

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), a collective of media women that concluded its 13th national meeting in Chennai on Saturday, 6 January 2018, expresses its deep concern at the widespread insecurity and vulnerability in the media profession in these times of growing intolerance, when freedom of expression and spaces for dissent are under siege.

Nearly a hundred mediawomen from across India participated in NWMI’s national meeting at Anna University, Chennai from January 4-6, 2018, where the central theme was ‘Gender and the Media – Challenges and Opportunities’. Among them were members from Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Odisha, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal.

NWMI members noted that recent acts of outright violence against journalists in 2017 – the murder of Bengaluru-based journalist Gauri Lankesh and Tripura-based reporters Shantanu Bhowmik and Sudip Datta Bhowmik – serve as evidence of how unsafe the profession has become.

Compounding the problem of online and offline harassment and abuse that journalists, particularly women, have faced over the past few years – whereby they are either silenced or are forced to censor themselves – are the large-scale layoffs in media houses in recent times, and especially in 2017.

We believe that the vulnerabilities within (and associated with) the profession – due to job losses, poor working conditions, discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, gender, age and geographical location – need to be recognized and addressed at the earliest.

The NWMI wishes to reiterate related issues that it has been consistently raising at previous national meetings: growing intolerance and shrinking space for dissent in Hyderabad (2016); challenges faced by professional freelance journalists Ahmedabad (2014); and ethics in media coverage Mumbai (2013). Some other issues that we have addressed in our ongoing role as a media watchdog are online abuse and attempts to silence journalists and sexual harassment in media houses, both of which affect women disproportionately.

We wish to emphasize that the killing of dynamic journalist Gauri Lankesh has renewed our concern and dedication to creating safer spaces for women in the media. The NWMI also feels that it is important to ensure diversity in newsrooms for the sake of equity as well as to improve media content. We therefore appeal for the establishment of workplaces free from sexual harassment; more space for marginalized voices and an atmosphere where journalists can operate without fear.

Chennai, January 9, 2018

Network of Women in Media, India