Senior journalist Babu Jayakumar on Saturday alleged that journalists at an event in Chennai asked for money to publish a report on the protest that was organized at the LIC Anna Salai office.
In a Facebook post titled, 'Status of TV journalists and state of journalism in Chennai today', Jayakumar also claimed that his wife was harassed and intimidated by journalists at the event.
Here's the full text:
A protest demonstration was organised at the LIC Anna Salai office after 5 pm today. Heeding to an e-mail invitation by the organisers, a clutch of television journalists (both reporters and videographers) thronged the premises for coverage. My wife was at the event, taking pictures on her mobile phone.
Some channels took bytes from the organisers individually and everything was going on smoothly when a group of the journalists returned the press release that was handed over to them in a cover and said that they want it to be filled with money. One of them even declared openly that they will not carry the news if they are not paid, following which the whole group turned aggressive, insisting that the organisers pay them money.
Suddenly, one of them saw my wife taking pictures and the whole group pounced on her, forcibly grabbed the phone from her and starting deleting the pictures. One of the journalists shouted at the others to take a picture of her and threatened to â€˜shameâ€™ her with it if she resisted the deletion of the pictures. One of them said that no one has the â€˜rightâ€™ to photograph them. When my wife said that her husband was a journalist, they said we care a hoot you are.
Meanwhile, the organisers, on their part, were returning the covers with Rs 200 in each of them, fearing a black out of their agitation. After my wife told them that that she felt ashamed to be a journalistâ€™s wife, one of them returned the money that he had taken and pleaded with her not to complain to the management. She had earlier asked him his name and told him that she can talk to his boss. But the rest were menacingly charging towards my wife. They even stalked her till she got into a cab to reach home.
Seeing the entire drama some of the organisers warned my wife to be careful. â€˜They could do anythingâ€™ was what they said. Yes, a group of journalists is dreaded by common people. I had heard about people dreading the mafia and some politicians with dubious profiles. Now journalists get things done by intimidation. If some men pounce on a woman and snatch her phone, some sections of the media make noise. But when journalists do it, it is okay?
Does an employment with Tamilan TV lifts one to a level beyond the law? Later I spoke to the heads of two other channels, who have promised action â€“ so I am not mentioning the names of the channels. I have some hope that at least the erring journalists will be taken to task. But no one seems to know who owns Tamilan TV. In fact even I was not told not to mess up with that channel (the owner who runs the channel is a member of Naam Tamizhar party was the only information that I could gather) for the journalist might enjoy the managementâ€™s support. I hope it is not.
Someone asked me why the police was not called. From the perspective of a woman facing a bunch of men behaving look hoodlums and the rest of their fraternity watching everything from behind, the situation becomes scary particularly when a journalist openly threatens to â€˜shameâ€™ her by taking her picture even after he was told that she another journalistâ€™s wife. Particularly when memories of a woman committing suicide after someone uploaded obscene morphed images, attached her head to it, on Facebook are fresh in the mind. And when television channels and newspapers have been daily covering the murder of a woman at the Nungambakkam station by a man, who looked less menacing on the CCTV grab than some of the journalists.
I hear many of you saying, it is common for journalists to demand money for news coverage. Well, that was what even the organisers of the protest felt. But is it okay for journalists to stalk a woman outside the premises where they had gone for coverage and that too as a group? Do they enjoy the divine right to shame her if she takes pictures of them fighting for money? Does they managements allow them to grab her phone and tamper with it? Does any TV anchor have the balls to take up the issue for discussion in their channel? After all most of the issues that are debated upon for hours nowadays are trivial and frivolous when compared to his even if they concern the other whipping boys like politicians, government, judiciary and police.