Indian Female Journalists Battle Threats For Having Opinions

Charvi Kathuria
Jun 12, 2018 14:20 IST
Indian female journalists battle threats for having opinions

Journalists in India are under threat more so the female journalists who are rampantly targeted on various social media sites. Online abuse, threats, trolls, WhatsApp messages and at times, even offline intimidation - it is continuous harassment for some of the country's most outspoken scribes. Worse, it's gendered and reeks of misogyny.


Author and columnist Bachi Karkaria says all objective journalists were increasingly vulnerable, and women were doubly disadvantaged here as in much else. "Intolerance has become endemic because the PM’s silence is taken as consent. But if media isn’t allowed to hold up an honest mirror, all that has been painstakingly built up these 71 years will shatter," she tells SheThePeople.TV.

Are women soft targets? Why must women have to pay a price for speaking up? Nishtha Satyam, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women India says "The Freedom of the Press is fundamental to a thriving and fully functional democracy. Women or men shouldn’t have to bear a price for speaking up as journalists. It must not be an act of bravery for women journalists to speak the truth and represent facts." She adds, the harassment, threats that women journalists face, including character assassination, is real, unacceptable, outdated and passé. Safety of women journalists is a prerequisite to ensuring a plural and free media and polity.

Recently, in a slew of cases, many women journalists have faced threats across the online world. NDTV's Nidhi Razdan took to Twitter recently to say she received a death threat.

She later tweeted that Facebook contacted her saying that the account has been suspended and all details will be handed over to the police.

Nidhi spoke to SheThePeople.Tv and said it was imperative that both police and social media platforms take online threats more seriously.

"My biggest grouse is with the social media platforms first: for example, WHY does Facebook allow ANYONE to message you? Even those who aren’t your friends. Even though it pops up in another inbox, it DOES pop up and then you have decide whether to accept or decline it. But because people know you’ll get their message, they send obscenities and threats because they can. If my FB account is private, then let it stay private."

On 5th September 2017 Gauri Lankesh, a senior journalist and activist was murdered outside of her residence in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Bengaluru. She was the editor of the weekly Gauri ‘Lankesh Patrike,’ a Kannada newspaper. The murder was preceded by both online and offline threats she had been receiving for a while. Her murder witnessed an outpouring of anger among the media and citizens who said that it was an attempt to silence democracy

Following her death, there was a Facebook post that called Sagarika Ghose, Arundhati Roy, Shobha De, Kavita Krishnan and Shehla Rashid as "anti-national" and that they should be assassinated like Gauri Lankesh. The Delhi Police registered a case against the Facebook user after Sagarika Ghose complained against him.

India ranks 138 on the World Press Freedom Index

It has also become increasingly common for female journalists to be threatened for voicing their opinions. Last year, Dhanya Rajendran, who is based in Bangalore and the co-Founder of News Minute, faced online abuse from Vijay’s fans on Twitter for putting out a negative remark about his film 'Sura'.

After watching Shah Rukh Khan's latest release "When Harry Met Sejal", Dhanya tweeted that it was "worse" than Vijay's Sura released seven years ago, then she had managed to stay at least till the interval.

A hashtag (#PublicityBeepDhanya) was created and used in more than 30,000 tweets. In fact, it ended up becoming a trend on Twitter for some time. Four persons were charged for their threats and abuse on Twitter targeting the journalist. The police booked a case under the IT Act and the Indecent Representation of Women Act among others.

At the Women Writers Fest organised by SheThePeople.TV, Karnika Kohli who works as the social media Editor at The Wire said that there is a lot of difference between how men and women are targeted online. Referring to a personal experience, she highlighted that men are attacked for their opinions while the women are attacked for their sexuality.

SheThePeople.TV contacted Twitter to know there opinion on the entire issue. The Twitter Spokesperson responded saying, "Safety is the number one priority for the company. From our CEO down, everyone knows we have to get this right and we’ve taken major systemic steps to improve Twitter for everyone. We've made more than 30 changes to our products, policies and processes in the past 16 months to tackle safety, and as of April 2018, we're taking action on 4x the number of abusive accounts every day compared to the same time last year.

If a user sees something that violates the Twitter Rules, the most important thing they can do is report it. We can take action on individual Tweets, Direct Messages, or accounts.

Tagging Twitter employees or Twitter corporate accounts is not the correct way to report. We have clear internal processes and a specially trained team who help enforce the Twitter Rules. When Twitter employees or Twitter accounts are tagged, our review team may not see the content, or be able to take action on it."

The unprecedented increase in threats to women journalists dampens the spirit of democracy in our country. It has become imperative for the Indian government, police, social media giants and media houses to collaborate and work in solidarity to make the country a safer and a freer place for female journalists slogging day and night to acquaint people with the truth.

Also: Writers Discuss Trolling, Say Women Targeted Differently Online

#Nidhi Razdan #Bachi Kacharia #Rana Ayyub #online abuse #dhanya rajendran #sagarika ghose #nishtha satyam #Female journalists