Sexual harassment alleged at the Statesman

IN Media Practice | 28/07/2003


The management rejects an allegation, but a women`s network pursues the case, the State Women`s Commission takes it up, and the Statesman sets up committees on sexual harassment.

When local chapters of the Network of Women in Media ( were set up in parts of India  a major objective was to provide solidarity and support to women journalists on issues arising at the workplace. There are now 16 such chapters. The Bengal Network has addressed itself to an allegation of sexual harassment made by a woman probationer at the Statesman who was subsequently sacked .

Below are a statement and relevant letters including the response of the Statesman management to the Bengal Network. The Statesman has subsequently set up sexual harassment committees at both Calcutta and Delhi.

A Victory for the Bengal Network

The Bengal chapter of the NWMI won a major victory recently. On February 28, 2003, The Statesman set up 4-member sexual harassment committees for their Delhi and Kolkata offices. This decision was a direct outcome of the courage shown by Rina Mukherjee in protesting harassment by her boss, Ishan Joshi, and a letter from the Bengal women journalist network to the newspaper, demanding that a committee be set up according to the Supreme Court guidelines. Despite an offensive reply sent by Mr Ravindra Kumar, ME of The Statesman to the Network, the letter did work as a `pressure point` and he did concede (although not officially!) to our demand a few days later.

The setting up of this committee is, of course, not the end of all problems. However, it is a part of a larger process of change. We hope this will initiate greater debate and discussions and more awareness about the issues. To make the committee effective, colleagues will have to take on a more proactive role. Otherwise, the committee will become an ornamental piece. There are many organisations/inDIViduals who are working on this issue and journalists can seek their help if needed.

Rina`s and the Bengal Network`s efforts are a great moral booster for journalists in other media houses too who are facing harassment in the workplace and will, hopefully, give them the courage to protest against sexual harassment . It is, indeed, ironic that though the media writes on human rights issues including sexual harassment, hardly any of the media houses have complied with the Supreme Court`s directive.

An update and some info
  • The Statesman, Kolkata/ Delhi has set up Sexual Harassment Committee in late February.
  • Rina Mukherjee has not been informed whether her case is being investigated in Kolkata office.
  • Rina had approached the State Women Commission, West Bengal. The Commission has accepted and taken up Rina`s case.
  • The Statesman address is :
    The Statesman House,
    4 Chowringhee square,
    Kolkata 700 001
    Fax (033) 2225 0118

    You can write to the Editor/Managing editor or Sajeda Momin (senior journalist chairperson, sexual harassment committee)

You can write to the Editor/Managing editor or Sajeda Momin (senior journalist chairperson, sexual harassment committee)


Rina`s complaint letter to The Statesman`s management

Mr C R Irani,
The Statesman,

January 30, 2003

Dear Sir,

I worked with The Statesman, Kolkata as a Senior Reporter from June 10, 2002 to October 12, 2002.

During the course of my tenure, I was sexually harassed by the news coordinator, Ishan Joshi. I was so traumatized by the experience, being the first such in a 15-year long career, that I could not share this with anybody at that point of time.

The sexual harassment was followed by the worst possible professional harassment culminating in my services being terminated. The entire episode has left me shattered. I have been struggling all this while to come to terms with myself and bring this to your notice. But then, I was warned against complaining about this to anybody by Ishan Joshi. Neither was there any Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee (as per the Supreme Court Guidelines of August 13,1997) within the organization to which I could turn to for counselling and support.

I would like to mention here, that, prior to my services being terminated, Ishan Joshi had actually made some sort of confession to his superior, on the basis of which I was advised a compromise by your top management-something which I considered impossible.

I request you to take appropriate action and look forward to justice from you.

Yours sincerely,
Rina Mukherji

Rina`s complaint note to the Bengal Network

Ananya Chatterjee,
Bengal Journalists Network,

February 9, 03

Dear Ananya,
As you know, I had been working with The Statesman, Kolkata, since June, 2002. About 10 days into my new job, I found that the news coordinator, Ishan Joshi would always look around for some opportunity to physically touch me. (The official reporting channel was via the chief reporter, who was my immediate boss, to the news coordinator, who oversaw the reporting and editing sections of the news paper).

Very soon, the harassment took the form of physical abuse and molestation every time I was in his room. When I refused to go along and respond to his advances, the harassment moved to the professional front. My appraisals went from positive to negative, and in September, I was called upon by the news coordinator to resign. On my refusing to do so, my services were finally terminated on October 12, 2002.

Taking up the matter with the managing director and editor, RavindraKumar, did not help either. The entire experience has left me extremely disturbed and traumatized, more so since I have felt helpless against the forces that have been unleashed on me. Besides, in the absence of a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee within the organization, I found myself at a double disadvantage.

Do you think the Bengal Network could look into the matter?

Yours truly,
Rina Mukherji

Bengal Network`s letter to The Statesman

Mr C R Irani,
The Statesman,

February 18, `03

A member of the Bengal Network of Women Journalists, Rina Mukherji, a former employee of The Statesman, has complained to us on February 9th, 2003, that she had been repeatedly sexually harassed by Ishan Joshi, the news co-ordinator, while she was working there.

Since she resisted the sexual overtures, Mr Joshi started to harass her professionally, as is the pattern with most sexual harassment cases in the workplace. Mr Joshi also insisted that she resign from her services if she did not comply with his advances. Ms Mukherji`s services were eventually terminated in October, 2002.

For Rina Mukherji, who has worked with reputed newspaper houses, it was the first experience of its kind in a career spanning 15 years. It has taken her months to come to terms with and address this trauma. After being dismissed from The Statesman, she had even contemplated suicide and had to take recourse to psychological counselling to overcome her depression.

As is the pattern with most women who face sexual harassment in the workplace by male peers and seniors, it takes months, sometimes years, to verbalise or confront the injustice and articulate it. It means not only coming out of denial, but also taking on the added pressure of social stigma and the intimidation from institutional power structures.

Perhaps this continuous injustice would not have reached such proportions in a media house like The Statesman that has historically shown sensitivity to the issue of human rights, had a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee been in place, as per the Supreme Court Guidelines of August 13, 1997. This would have emboldened Rina to speak up earlier and seek justice.

We are certain that if you had some knowledge of this incident, then something as unjust as this would not have happened in The Statesman. We have felt the need to bring this to your notice with the hope that justice will be done and the human dignity of the journalist restored as is expected of a media house of repute.

Yours Sincerely,

Ananya Chatterjee
Rajshri Dasgupta
Bengal Network

The Statesman Management`s reply to the Bengal Network

25, 2003

Dear Ms Chatterjee/Ms Dasgupta
I respond to your letter of 18th February 2003, addressed to theeditor-in-chief and have the following to state:

a) I am aware of all the facts surrounding the termination of Ms RinaMukherji`s services from The Statesman and can state with authority that there is no truth whatsoever to her allegations of sexual harassment at the hands of Mr Ishan Joshi, News Coordinator, or anyone else.

b) Ms Mukherji`s services were not terminated by Mr Joshi, but by me. She was a probationary journalist and I was not satisfied with her work. The termination was entirely consistent with the terms of Ms Mukherji`s appointment.

c) I am not sure if you are aware of Ms Mukherji`s correspondence with The Statesman. For your edification, I enclose a copy of her letter to us, and of my reply to her. These are self-explanatory.

d) I am aware that a journalist of some experience, as Ms Mukherji is, may feel distraught at being asked to leave an organisation, and that thismay result in psychological stress. To suggest, however, that the reasons for this stress lie in alleged sexual harassment is dishonest, as well asbeing defamatory to both the organization and the inDIVidual in question.

e) There is nothing in what you say or suggest, or indeed in what MsMukherji had to say to us in her letter of 30th January, to support the view that the presence of a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee would have emboldened her to speak up about the alleged sexual harassment sooner that the 3 months and 18 days she actually took to do so. Ms Mukherji`s allegation is clearly an afterthought.

f) I do not propose to enter into a discussion with you on a Sexual Harassment Complaints Committee. I do not recognize your authority to address me on this subject.

Yours faithfully,

Ravindra Kumar
Editor and Managing Director
The Statesman Ltd.

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