The Network of Women in Media, India, on Tuesday wrote to Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited protesting against two shows on the Tarun Tejpal rape case that were broadcast on its Times Now news channel. The organisation said the broadcasts were illegal and unethical.
Tejpal, a former Tehelka editor, is accused of raping a junior colleague in 2013 in a hotel elevator at an annual event organised by the magazine in Goa. The case is being heard in-camera before an Additional District and Sessions Court and the media is barred from attending or covering the proceedings. In September 2017, the trial court charged Tejpal with rape, sexual harassment and wrongful restraint. He pleaded not guilty. In an internal email, he had claimed the incident had been a “lapse of judgment”.
The Network was referring to the “India Upfront” show titled “Secrets of a dark night” anchored by TimesNow editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar, and the “Newshour” debate titled “Tejpal’s indiscretions caught on CCTV” anchored by Times Now Managing Editor-Politics Navika Kumar aired on May 28.
“These shows represent a dangerous attempt to influence public opinion against the complainant and in favour of the more powerful accused,” the network wrote, adding that the panelists and anchors misled the audience with their purported analysis.
“We are stunned that you persisted in broadcasting shows which violated the dignity and privacy of the complainant and allowed the anchor and the guests on the show, including the lawyer for the accused, to air prejudiced and ill-informed news and opinions that only served to further harass and humiliate the complainant,” the organisation wrote.
The network accused the channel of breaking the law on in-camera trials and demanded that it remove the show from all online platforms and issue an unconditional apology to the complainant.
Under Indian law, it is illegal to name a complainant of sexual abuse, let alone air footage of them.