Mrinal Pande and Mythili Bhusnurmath Quit Editors Guild following Continued Membership of MJ Akbar, Tarun Tejpal
The Guild’s lack of response to the sexual assault allegations against India Today anchor Gaurav Sawant has also been criticised.
Editors Mrinal Pande and Mythili Bhusnurmath have resigned from the Editors Guild of India (EGI) on account of the continued memberships of former minister MJ Akbar, former editor-in-chief of Tehelka Tarun Tejpal, and former editor of The Times of India and DNA Gautam Adhikari.
Reportedly, Pande and Bhusnurmath tendered their resignations after fellow members of the EGI offered platitudes for the status quo nf these members’ continuing membership in the Guild.
The Wire reported that Nai Duniya editor Shahid Siddiqui’s remarks that there had been “no precedent” of the Guild removing one of its members had not gone well with Pande. Reportedly, Siddique, who has been an EGI member since 1987 said, “My suggestion is that Akbar should be asked to explain and a three member committee should look into the matter and give its report within 15 days, before any action is taken against a member.” He added, “We must take a moral stand but also follow procedures. We should not be seen to be reacting in haste or overlooking due process.”
In the resignation email sent to the EGI, Pande reportedly termed the Guild a “club”, accusing the Guild of “chicanery”. Pande further said, “Honourable men like Nikhil Chakraborty, Ajit Bhattacharjee and Prem Bhatia blocked the membership of a very powerful Hindi media baron and member of the Upper House because his paper published scurrilous reports on Mayawati. He later claimed he had ‘made peace’ with her so he should be admitted. They stood up to his bullying and just said ‘No’.”
Bhusnurmath, too, reportedly called out on the EGI’s “spineless response” to the several allegations of sexual harassment levelled against Akbar. In her email The Economic Times’ consulting editor noted that she had initially reserved her judgement on the allegations against Akbar but Pallavi Gogoi’s allegations of rape against the journalist-turned-politician, however, led to her to a decision. “After reading Pallavi’s gut-wrenching account and the EGI’s spineless response to the allegations against him so far, I would like to quit,” Bhusnurmath said in her email.
EGI’s Continued Silence on Gaurav Sawant and Other Faulty Decisions
The EGI’s lackadaisical approach in its handling of the allegations of sexual harassment against India Today anchor Gaurav Sawant has also attracted a barrage of criticism. Senior journalist Vidya Krishnan, speaking to Caravan magazine, had accused Sawant of inappropriately behaving with her in 2003, when she was on an assignment in Punjab, while working with The Pioneer. Sawant went on to file a legal notice against Krishnan, who said that she was not “intimidated” by the threat of defamation and she would fight against it.
Aside from a glaring lack of response in this instance, there have been other inconsistencies in the EGI’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against well-known journalists.
Earlier, on November 2, the EGI had released a statement about the status of Akbar’s membership. In its statement, the EGI outlined it was tracking the allegations against Akbar — post Gogoi’s rape allegations — and that it had written to him to reply to the allegations made against him. The Guild also noted that after it had completed its process, it would make a decision regarding Akbar’s membership.
In October, the Guild had released a statement in support of the women journalists who had outed Akbar’s sexual misconduct towards them. It had also asked him to withdraw the criminal defamation case he had filed against Priya Ramani, who was one of the first journalists to accuse him.