Defamation Harassment

Journalists at a protest against sexual harassment in the media industry in New Delhi, Oct. 13. The Indian Women's Press Corps has said the threat of defamation may discourage women from coming forward with sexual harassment complaints. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — The Indian Women's Press Corps Nov. 20 expressed concern at the growing number of incidents of sexual harassment in the media and said threatening women with defamation suits may dissuade them from coming forward or compel them to withdraw their complaints.

The IWPC urged media organizations to send a strong message that there will be zero tolerance for such behavior by not only setting up the robust mechanisms required under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act but also by reacting proactively as and when such instances are reported. 

In a statement, the IWPC said while it was concerned at the growing instances of sexual harassment in the media, it was equally concerned that narratives and complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace were often threatened by defamation "as in the recent instance involving a senior woman journalist who detailed her harassment in a magazine."

The allegations pertained to a news anchor who denied them and sent a defamation notice to said magazine, the woman journalist and the concerned reporter who filed the story.

"The IWPC recognizes that sexual harassment at the workplace is a pervasive phenomenon and that women still find it difficult to report such instances, whether they have occurred in the present or in the past. The threat to use defamation can have the effect of dissuading women from complaining or compel them to withdraw their complaints," it said.

The organization said it believed there should be constant support and encouragement for women to speak out against the harassment they have faced. 

"It also believes that proper processes of inquiry be initiated by the appropriate forums in all cases of sexual harassment at the workplace including in instances where the incident may be dated," it said. 

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