Reporters, video journalists and eminent media personalities gathered in solidarity at South Boag Road in Chennai a day after BJP State Secretary S Ve Shekher shared a deplorable message on women journalists on his Facebook page.
Protesting journalists shouted slogans against the insulting language used in the post, which claimed that women journalists get ahead only by sleeping around.
Over the course of the protest, a scuffle broke out between the protestors and the police. Around 30 journalists, including several women, were arrested by the police.
As voices against S Ve Shekher rent the air amidst the bustling traffic, posters of the actor-turned-politician were ripped into pieces and thrown to the ground. “We will not allow fascist voices to suppress us, we are journalists,” they shouted.
Shekher’s post came in the wake of the outrage against the Governor patting a woman journalist’s cheek during a press conference. Mediapersons and politicians slammed the inappropriate behaviour on the part of the Governor.
On Thursday, Shekher shared a Facebook post written by Thirumalai Sa., which didn’t name the journalist in question. However, the headline of the post, which read ‘Madurai University, the Governor and a virgin girl’s cheek’ was S Ve Shekher’s own.
The journalists had originally planned to protest outside the Bharatiya Janata Party office, but the police cordoned off the entire street, making it impossible for people to enter. This forced the protesters to huddle outside the street with the police keeping a close watch.
Speaking to TNM, senior journalist Kavitha Muralidharan said, “This is not the first time someone from the BJP is speaking about journalists in this manner. S Ve Shekher and H Raja have both spoken about journalists, even calling them anti-national. This has to stop somewhere. This is a significant protest from the media fraternity. I hope the BJP high command is listening and plans to take action. The BJP State President (Tamilisai Soundararajan) was open to taking our complaint, but I'm not sure what action she can take.”
The protesters were repeatedly told by the police to move to the side of the road. Faced with scant space and stubborn police officers, the journalists decided to take the protest to S Ve Shekher's house in Mandaveli.
Soon after the first batch of journalists landed at S Ve Shekher's house, a few indulged in stone pelting, denting the huge signboards of the politician and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The journalists who came a moments after were shouting slogans against the politician, daring him to come out of his house. Police personnel, who had been stationed there, rounded up the protesters and whisked them away in a van.
Even as neighbours watched from rooftops and balconies, the police personnel got into a scuffle with journalists who were standing around. “You cannot stand here because you are blocking traffic,” said one senior police officer to the journalists on the deserted bylane on a Friday afternoon.
Speaking to TNM, one senior woman journalist from an English news channel said, “We will not take this lying down. They cannot trample over rights like this. We are here to do a job. This is deplorable coming from such a high position.”
S Ve Shekher later issued an apology where he claimed that he hadn’t read the post, and had merely shared it.