The fourth estate has always been lauded for standing against social wrongs and crime perpetrated by the rich and powerful. After all, it was the voice of the people who has no one to turn to for expression of grief and seeking justice as well as redemption. As they say, two wrongs doesn’t make one right. What do you do when the trust is breached and mishandled?
We were shocked on the news that rocked Tehelka, where founder and chief editor, Tarun Tejpal alleged attempt to rape a young journalist of the age of his daughter in Goa, not once but twice. I was shocked and felt a sense of abuse. My trust was violated. I tell you why: Tehelka-Journalism of Courage is a magazine I highly respected for being fearless and fighting for freedom of speech. Throughout the years, I admire the way how they took on authorities seeking nothing but the absolute truth. Tejpal was ‘someone’ who voiced his concern against rape, molestation against women and I am sure many journalists, like the young girl, looked up-to- him as the model.
Managing editor of Tehelka, Shoma Chaudhury is someone I respected a lot as a journalist for speaking fearlessly as a panelist on TV channels and conclaves on women’s rights, rape, physical and sexual assault. Is it not the same Shoma who vented her anger and seeking justice on TV channel? Now, what happened and I am aghast with horror when I saw her telling journalists that it is an internal matter of Tehelka and that media is more aggrieved than the girl in question. The fact is Shoma has shown her hypocrisy and double standard on the issues with her attempt to cover up. It’s crass and humiliating how she told her staff that Tejpal is sorry and committed an ‘error of judgement’, in his own words. Wow! Shoma! Now, rape or attempt to outrage the modesty of woman is a lapse of judgement..if everybody could get away with that!
Tehelka Gate raises a very important issue that many upper middle class and rich has shrugged away. Let’s face it: Crime is not the domain of the poor and it happens among rich families as well. The capitalists should do a reality check and not come up with the lame, ‘hamare yahan nahin hota.’ The case shows how rape cuts across social class and it doesn’t help us to avoid what goes behind the white sheet of rich families. I am also shocked how some media houses has published the letter written by the victim to Tehelka’s Shoma and which has gone viral on social networking sites. It is shocking. As a journalist, I cannot hide under freedom of information to violate someone’s privacy since the letter contains very personal details. I am just wondering how the letter internal to Tehelka has been made public. It is digital rape which is simply unacceptable.
It raises another important issue whether we can trust the media as a social agency speaking against wrongful deeds in society. It makes me uncomfortable as a journalist after what I call as Tehelka Gate has emerged and one is tempted to ask who is objective and who is not. Should we trust the media to bring the truth at the forefront or is it an idealist view for future journalists armed with lofty ideas to bring change in society? I seek an answer and now I doubt whether objective journalism exist in the world. What makes matters worse was when Tehelka refused to set a committee demanded by the victim and they only buckled up under popular pressure.
Since when Tarun Tejpal and Shoma have become judges in the case? I cannot digest the fact that Tejpal offered to resign for six months in order to ‘atone’ for his ‘sins’. In the name of professional ethics, both Tarun and Shoma should have stepped down, one for the crime committed and the other for, cover up. As far as the girl is concerned, she is a very courageous soul that honors her profession and despite pressure built on her, she stood up for something right which one hope many journalists and women will follow. I wonder there will be attempt to pass stacks money under the table…