Network of Women in Media (Mumbai) organised a meeting with women’s groups on April 25, 2009 at the Press Club to discuss the media coverage of the recent TISS student gang rape and the possibility of future action on the same. It brought together representatives of several women’s groups in the city – including Forum Against Oppression of Women, LABIA, CEHAT, Women’s Centre, Akshara, Point of View, Aawaaz-e-Niswaan, and AIDWA – as well as some students and faculty from TISS.
Everyone expressed dissatisfaction with the way the TISS student’s gang rape was covered in the media. Several sections of the media ignored the generally followed norm of not revealing the identity of the rape victim (which is supposed to include not just the name of the victim but also other identifying details) by publishing the full FIR with all its graphic details. This has also happened in the case of many other stories as well such as the recent tantric and young girls incest case and the Marine Drive rape case some years ago. Generally there is an obsession with coverage of crime and especially those of a sexual nature involving middle-class people. This not only violates the privacy of the victim and makes her vulnerable to identification, it also deters other women victims of sexual assault from ever filing an FIR. Furthermore, it was discussed that by publishing one of the offender’s and his lawyers’ version of events and their mud-slinging comments on the victim, the defence was only building its own legal case using the media as a go-between.
So how do we proceed and make the media aware that what they are doing is wrong and harming the interests of a vulnerable victims? These are the different points that came up: