Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023 | Last Update : 02:59 PM IST

  Life   More Features  08 Apr 2017  Journalism: Enter at your own risk!

Journalism: Enter at your own risk!

Published : Apr 8, 2017, 12:06 am IST
Updated : Apr 8, 2017, 12:06 am IST

The brutal assault on freelance journalist Aparna Kalra raises pertinent questions about the safety and security of females in the profession.

Aparna Kalra
 Aparna Kalra

Aparna Kalra, a 45-year-old freelance journalist, was on a regular evening walk in a DDA park in Delhi’s Ashok Vihar area on April 5, when she got brutally attacked by an unidentified assailant, leaving her with severe head injuries. Aparna writes extensively on education and other serious issues, and has worked with leading national dailies. While many queries come to mind when one thinks of the reason for the assault, the fact that her news stories may have put her life at risk, raises a serious question about the safety of female journalists in India.

As the brave heart battles for her well-being in the hospital, we speak to women journalists from across the country to find out how safe they feel being in this profession and the fear that Aparna’s case brings to their minds.

“Being in electronic media, I have many night shifts, and mostly, I’m the only woman along with the cameraperson and the driver. Many times I have to report from secluded places with a sense of fear that if anything happens, there is nothing much that I will be able to do to protect myself. Insecurity is at the highest when I’m reporting in a huge crowded area, where groping and inappropriate touching are regular occurrences,” says 26-year-old Pratima Sharma, who covers Delhi government and Aam Aadmi Party for a news channel in Delhi.

Apart from keeping yourself constantly alert and careful, nothing much can be done about such incidents, a lot of journalists say. Many feel that the profession makes them very open to the public, trolls on social media and legal threats from people in high authorities.

“Once, I criticised a poorly-executed performance of a classical dancer (who is the wife of an IAS officer) in my story. The next day, she landed up to my office and started screaming at me, saying she will sue me. All the tamasha happened only because she’s the wife of a bureaucrat. Post that, I was asked (by my management) to not be so critical about anything and that I should not think that I’m an expert,” mentions Namita Panda, 32, a features writer who heads a website based in Odisha.  

“Moreover, our contact details are (stored) with so many people, it puts us in a vulnerable situation. For our night events, we aren’t always provided with cabs and neither are we paid so well that we can always book cabs for commuting. And, of course, the high-profile people will always look down upon us and talk to us in a lewd manner. But, these things never make me submissive. I believe in keeping silent at the moment and publishing the entire experience as it is,” adds Namita.

It may sound superlative, but most, if not all, female journalists happen to have faced some kind of harassment, in one way or the other. Whether it’s about making contacts in the industry, developing sources to dig out stories or getting indecent proposals from those very sources, and unwillingly agreeing to those proposals, in order to get sufficient information for reports, female journalists in India seem to somehow have accepted the unfriendly and unsafe aura of the industry.

“It’s all a part of this profession. There’s no escape to this. While women are vulnerable in almost all professions in India, journalism is somewhat worse because it exposes us to a lot of (good, bad as well as ugly) people. What happened with Aparna is very unfortunate and I just pray that something like this doesn’t happen to me,” says 47-year-old Kasturi Ray, another journalist based in Odisha, who has previously been a victim of trolls on social media.

Ask her how she deals with them (trolls) and she casually says, “I take it as a sign of popularity and convince myself that my stories are not only being read by people but are also invoking reactions from them. In fact, at times I’ve got calls from some private numbers wherein people have said several nonsensical things about me. But I just flush it off my shoulders.”

In the meantime, Aparna is reportedly “stable, conscious and talking” now. But, what if she had lost her life (probably) because of her profession? Are our women journalists really safe? The question remains unanswered.  

Tags: journalism, delhi government, social media, aparna kalra