Journalists ask TN guv to apologise

Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit

Journalists and their associations on Wednesday demanded an apology from Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit for patting the cheek of a woman scribe during a press conference at the Raj Bhawan here on Tuesday.

The Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI), a collective of women media professionals across India, in a statement condemned the “patronising behaviour” of Purohit, towards Lakshmi Subramanian, a special correspondent with The Week magazine, saying that his act amounts to sexual harassment at the workplace under the laws of the country.

“NWMI strongly condemns the unprofessional behaviour of the governor and demands an unconditional apology from him to Lakshmi, and to women journalists across the country. Such misconduct from a top government official cannot be excused under any pretext,” the NWMI said in a statement.

Journalists in Tamil Nadu also sent a letter to Purohit demanding an “unconditional apology” from him on the incident. “We do not wish to question your motives on this gesture, considering that it is appalling that you should choose to do such a thing at a press meet that you addressed on the case of a professor allegedly luring students to sexual encounters with her seniors and who claimed to know you,” the letter said.

“Mr Governor, we the journalists of Tamil Nadu demand that you offer an unconditional apology to the journalist in question and also assure all journalists of Tamil Nadu that you will not violate their rights in the future,” the letter signed by nearly 200 journalists stated.

The NWMI said they would like to reiterate that the intention of the harasser does not count.

“What matters is how the person on the receiving end feels. So for the governor or any of his supporters, to dismiss any allegations of inappropriate conduct with statements like, 'I am old enough to be your grandfather,' cannot be excused. Does that mean that in every case where the accused is above a certain age, they should be automatically acquitted or forgiven?” the NWMI asked in its statement.

Lakshmi posted a picture of the governor patting on her cheek on her Twitter handle and called his behaviour “unprofessional.”

“I asked TN Governor Banwarilal Purohit a question as his press conference was ending. He decided to patronisingly – and without consent – pat me on the cheek as a reply. This, moments after he dismissed a barrage of questions about allegations of sexual misconduct against himself. Unprofessional behaviour – and completely uncalled for to touch a stranger without her consent, especially a woman,” Lakshmi tweeted.

“Washed my face several times. Still not able to get rid of it. So agitated and angered Mr Governor Banwarilal Purohit. It might be an act of appreciation for you and grandfatherly attitude. But to me you are wrong,” she wrote further.

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