THE RELENTLESS MEDIA COVERAGE of the former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal’s alleged assault on his much younger colleague in a hotel elevator simultaneously exposes as well as eclipses the complex lived experiences of women in the media. The news reports, opinion pieces and tangential investigations that the editor’s “lapse of judgement” and subsequent rape charge unleashed have been utterly demoralising.
This is particularly true for those who have worked for Tehelka, believed in journalism as a public service and remember collecting money to bring out a “People’s Paper”, which is how Tejpal sold the enterprise to many of us. In the days that he and the very promising Tehelka were being targeted by the BJP-led NDA government for exposing corruption in defence deals in 2001, it was inconceivable that Tejpal would one day resemble some of the creeps that we encountered or heard about in the newsrooms.
The Tehelka I worked in was different. Some friends who joined at the beginning took salary cuts to support an idealistic journalistic venture. They worked tirelessly to cover stories that no one bothered about: I still remember their exhaustive focus on the hair-raising July 2004 protest—by women in Manipur who disrobed and dared the men of the Assam Rifles to “rape us too”—against the custodial rape and murder of a woman named Thangjam Manorama. The men and women at Tehelka even spent nights in the office, spreading newspapers on the floor for short naps between tight deadlines.