Tehelka sexual assault case: social media made all the difference | ht view | Hindustan Times
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Tehelka sexual assault case: social media made all the difference

ht view Updated: Dec 03, 2013 18:49 IST
Dhruba Jyoti Purkait

In 2002, when Rina Mukherjee was fired from the Statesman for alleging that her boss was sexually harassing her, not many took notice.

Earlier this year, when the West Bengal Industrial Tribunal ordered the newspaper to reinstate her with full wages, the news again did not get much attention.

Her case stands in contrast to the virtual storm that was witnessed after Tehelka’s founder Tarun Tejpal was accused of sexual assault.

The difference between the two cases has been the social media.

When news broke last week that Tejpal was stepping down for six months, information flowed mainly through Twitter. The traditional media has been overtaken by social networking websites as the primary medium for popular discussion on the case.

Though a few newspapers chose to not carry the news of Tejpal’s resignation, the shock evinced by journalists, activists and the public ensured that not just the media but the police and the Tehelka management were forced to take notice of the case.

By Friday, the incident was covered in all major newspapers. The rise of the alternative media isn’t without its pitfalls though.

In the last two days, netizens have violated the victim’s right and desire to privacy by sharing her personal emails and speculating on the details of the alleged assault.

The democratisation of information flow has been an important off-shoot of the social media revolution. In terms of the dissemination of information, it has managed to upset the predominance of traditional media avenues.

The recent episode, besides showing the murkier side of Indian journalism, has also proved that media can no longer afford to keep quiet. Public outrage, so often required to move the State into action is no longer the sole preserve of the media.

For victims of sexual assault, so often forced into silence, it is good news that their voice is starting to reach others.