Activists attack Tehelka management

Women activists and senior journalists expressed dissatisfaction over the way Tehelka management handled the issue of the alleged sexual assault of a woman journalist by its editor Tarun Tejpal.

PTI| Updated: Nov 21, 2013, 18:43 PM IST

New Delhi: Women activists and senior journalists on Thursday expressed dissatisfaction over the way Tehelka management handled the issue of the alleged sexual assault of a woman journalist by its editor Tarun Tejpal and said law should take its course as it was not an internal matter.

They were critical of the statements made by Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury who said it was not a police case which the organisation will deal with to the satisfaction of the victim.

They were commenting on the raging controversy over the weekly magazine`s statements that appeared to give an impression that the alleged sexual assault involving Tejpal in a Goa hotel 10 days ago is an internal matter and that the girl was "satisfied" with the "action" in the issue.

A former top Delhi police official Kiran Bedi and noted lawyer Pinky Anand felt that it was clear case of crime and police can suo motu take cognisance of it.

Anand said Tejpal should be arrested and an FIR lodged against him. She said the victim cannot be forced to give a complaint and the police can suo motu take action.

Bedi said an act of crime has been committed and police should take suo motu action.

A woman activist Kavita Krishnan said Tehelka`s response to the complaint by their woman employee "is inadequate and in fact shocking".

She said it was shocking because the complaint was specifically one of sexual harassment and that she has asked Tejpal`s acknowledgement that he committed sexual harassment be publicly circulated to all the Tehelka employees and that has not happened.

"We need to tell Mr Tejpal that penance is no substitute for due process and penalty," she said.

Noted journalist N Ram said that the issue one of crime under the law of the land and law should take its course.

He said women`s movement should take up the case of the victim and make a noise so that the issue is properly dealt with.

Another senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan also said that the alleged incident was a violation of law and police should act accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Editors Guild of India said the allegations of sexual assault made against the Tehelka editor "are on the face of it shocking and shameful" and demanded a complete probe and prosecution.

"Such incidents anywhere are condemnable in the strongest terms but the Guild is particularly saddened that they should engulf a media organisation. It is emphatically the philosophy of the Guild that the media that is in the business of holding public persons accountable should itself be held to the highest standards of conduct and decency," Guild president Ravi said in a statement.

The conduct that has been alleged would constitute grave sexual assault at the very least, also brings out vulnerability of young women journalists who need to be protected and free to pursue their careers without the fear of being subject to such assaults, he said.

"There ought not to be any attempt to cover up or play down this extremely serious incident. Self-proclaimed atonement and recusal for a period are hardly the remedies for what the allegations show to be outright criminality.”

"The full force of the law must be brought into its investigation and prosecution. Due regard must be paid to the sensitivity and privacy of the victim who has already been put to grievous suffering," he said.