MEDIA FAYE-S THE WAY TO EQUALITY

24 August 2017 is a day earmarked in Indian history as the day that we were re-gifted our dignity with our right to privacy. The state can free itself from the duty of unnecessary snooping and thereby stooping to a low in humanity. The judgement has a specific mention about section 377. The nine-member jury noted that the previous Koushal judgement on Section 377 that made “unnatural sex” (widely interpreted as non-procreatory sex) illegal was a flawed judgement. They heavily condemned use of words like “miniscule minority” in the Koushal judgement. Corporate India can come out of the closet now. The Media has been widely covering this aspect as well. However, it doesn’t happen that often that the story teller becomes the story and puts their own employee on the hot seat. My friend, Faye D’souza from Mirror Now just did that by featuring the coming out of her employee in Mirror Now’s FB Live Stream.

Faye has a relatively young team of people in early twenties working with her at Mirror Now. The channel also has a young-ish youthful vibe, with effective use of social media, and often with under 30/40 age old panelists. One of her colleagues who comes up in every discussion of hers is her social media team. Faye’s social media “team” is a slaughter of English, because her team is just one person — Ankit Dasgupta.

Ankit’s boss summoned him to a room for a tete-a-tete. All corporate employees could understand how it feels like when your boss calls you to the room for a “private conversation”. It could mean you could be getting a memo. However, what ensus was one of the most historic things to happen in Ankit’s life and on the history of a mainstream English Indian Television company. Faye asks Ankit to switch on the facebook live stream. Rightly so, social media is where we can be as real as it gets. Faye reprimands Ankit for his buzzing phone. And then starts speaking about the Right To Privacy judgement, specifically the part that focusses on section 377. She calls it a win for the LGBT community and says “we all cried when the section 377 judgement was announced”. And suddenly, she tilted the camera on Ankit Dasgupta and shared that she was extremely happy and proud of her gay colleague Ankit Dasgupta. Please not that, She did this because of the camaraderie that she shared with him and knew for sure that he wouldn’t be offended by the spotlight considering that Ankit is a proud and out gay man. A visibly amazed Ankit Dasgupta, continues with a smile.

When the previous Supreme Court Judgement on section 377 that criminalised “unnatural” sex. One of the strongest allies in media, Barkha Dutt began her show by saying “ This is strictly, and i need to disclose my prejudice at the beginning of the programme, an advocacy show, a protest show, at the verdict today”.

You need to have an opinion about social evils. Homophobia is a social evil and it needs to be condemned. Of course, she was slapped with legal notices and stuff, but nothing deterred her from standing up for equal rights. In fact, this is one issue that Rajdeep Sardesai ( previously CNN IBN/ now IndiaToday), Tammanna Inamdar (previously CNBC Awaaz/ Now TheQuint Bloomberg) and Arnab Goswami ( previously Times Now/ Now Republic) have all stood together and protested. The role of journalists in bringing change is understated.

I personally know all the above mentioned TV journalists and can vouch for their support long after the camera goes off. Let me make a cardinal sin that I advocate against — assumption of a persons sexuality — They all to the best of my knowledge are heterosexuals. India definitely lacks out LGBT people in the newsroom. While we have Anderson Cooper in CNN and Racheal Maddow in MSNBC in the US. We have very hardly any examples of publicly out LGBT people in newsrooms in India. With a rare exception of Padmini Prakash, a transgender news anchor with Lotus TV in Tamil Nadu. While there are careless whispers and speculations on people’s sexuality, such whispers are a norm with all people with a public life. But what Faye and Ankit have done is remarkable because single handily with this small facebook live set an example not only for newsrooms but to corporate india. While many multinationals have Diversity and Inclusion policies, many of them are hush-hush about it. Many LGBTIQ events that they organise are not publicised. Many celebrate free-love but choose to remain private (aka in the closet) about it. Though that’s also a step in the right direction, the absolute way would be to stand up fearlessly with your colleagues who are out. Newsrooms and corporate India should take a lesson or two from Faye in how to publicly hold the hand of your queer employee.

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