Suicide attempt: When media insider cries foul, why does media fall silent?

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Suicide attempt: Why is media silent?
An India TV anchor, Tanu Sharma, attempted suicide on June 22 just outside her office premises in Noida. The journalist who is said to be out of danger now, took the drastic step allegedly because of harassment from two senior colleagues.

Before the suicide attempt, she wrote a note on social networking site Facebook blaming two of her seniors for mental harassment and conspiracy.

As the TV presenter is recovering from the trauma, her plight has very conveniently and silently swept under the carpet by the media itself.

There are two versions to this story--one given by the Journalist herself and the other by the News channel.

If the version given by journalist is true then what happened is very unfortunate. However, what is more dismal is the media's coverage of the issue. The media largely ignored it and those who covered it gave a very limited coverage to the issue.

A famous actress charging Ness Wadia with molestation is a sensational story, while a suicide attempt by a TV journalist is not important.

The alacrity with which the media acted in reporting the Tejpal case and the so called Preity-Ness mess case was nowhere to be seen in this case. While the Tejpal and Preity Zinta's cases made it to the front page and primetime news slot for at least a week, Tanu's suicide attempt case was relegated to the back pages of newspapers and was soon forgotten. The news reports did go beyond quoting from Tanu's Facebook note, which she wrote before attempting suicide. But in the aforementioned cases, the brouhaha over the cases did not seem to have faded a bit even after weeks.

Why is media silent

Why is the media silent on this case then? Is it because this case points a finger towards media itself and no one wants to question the fourth pillar? If it were a luminary in place of the journalist, would the media have reported it in the same way?

Or is it that the media is wary and not comfortable when it comes to reporting on itself? Or is it that this case is not news worthy? Well, silence by the media on the issue has raised questions on the traditions of the media industry?

As told to newslaundry here are both the victim's and the channels version of the story.

The victim's version of the story:

Tanu, who was a news anchor with India TV till last week said that she took the daily harrasment she had to go through in the channel as a part of the newsroom politics, and let it go. But on June 22, it reached the peak point and thus, attempted to commit suicide by consuming rat poison in the India TV premises in Noida Sector 85.

Tanu was quoted as saying in newslaundary, "I joined India TV in February this year (2014) and things started to turn sour within a month." Tanu reported to Senior Executive Editor, Anita Sharma on a daily basis, although her immediate superior and head of department (HoD) was Senior Executive Editor, MN Prasad.

According to Tanu, "Sharma repeatedly humiliated her in front of her colleagues and belittled her on every occasion. She'd find faults with everything, from the way I looked, to the clothes I wore, to my hairstyle. I was told I'm not glamorous enough and that I didn't know how to carry myself."

She further said, "Anita Sharma would constantly criticise my voice and say it's too harsh but no one in the newsroom complained. In fact, I routinely gave voiceovers for special features - why would they let me do so if my voice was so bad?"

Tanu also said that within a few days of joining the channel, Sharma said that she would like to send her somewhere out to meet people. She said, "I asked whether it was for an interview or a byte but she never responded clearly. She kept telling me that she would like to send me out for some other reasons and once, when I insisted, stated that I could earn extra money if I agreed."

"I used to cry every day and broke down finally. As a final resort I messaged MN Prasad simply saying that ‘I am resigning'."

Tanu also said, "Prasad said he'd discuss the issue, but he made no effort to call her or hear her out. While standard procedure across organisations need an employee to submit a formal resignation letter, but Prasad treated my one-line SMS as a formal resignation and asked me to leave without giving me a notice period or taking an exit interview. This is rather surprising considering the contract does not allow the employee to terminate his/her services."

"The HR acted more or less like a puppet in the hands of the management and I was told to leave", she says. Dejected with the way she was treated Tanu attempted suicide.

The Channel's version of the story:

Tanu Sharma had joined in February 2014. She was still on probation as her three month probation period had been extended since in her first three months she had made two serious mistakes on air. First time, she was laughing on air during live news while presenting serious news. She had been warned. Second mistake she made was that while she was on studio duty she left the studio and newsroom, putting her phone on silent was sitting in the cafetaria. Due to non-availability of anchor, the channel had to give breaking news without an anchor on just graphics. She was given a second warning by HR.

Complaints regarding her behavior were reported regularly. The last incident was a minor reprove by her senior in the girls make up room in the presence of two other female anchors, after which she sent a message that she is resigning. It was confirmed with her by her immediate senior and then forwarded to HR. HR sent her a mail and informed her that her resignation had been accepted and she should come and meet them for the relieving formalities. She came and met them, handed over her I-card, collected her belongings from the make up room and left saying good bye to her colleagues. And the matter was amicably closed.

During her service she never made any complaint of harassment or even shared it with any colleague. India TV was amongst the first few channels to have instituted a complaint redressal committee for women employees which is headed by a Supreme Court lawyer, if she actually had any issues she could have approached the committee. The two people she is blaming are very senior and highly respected professionals in the industry. The lady she is blaming has trained hundreds of young producers and anchors and is respected and appreciated very much. She is herself a mother of two girls, these false allegations have caused a lot of harassment to her and her family.

Although the outcome of the case is not known but this case has definitely created a crack in the wall surrounding Indian media through which the world outside can now see parts of its dark underbelly.

The fact that this involved a journalist and a media house should not in any way deter us from reporting the facts.

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