January 30, 2023


All About Women

FII Interviews: Award-Profitable Journalist Neha Dixit Talks About Reporting On Gender-Primarily based Violence, Politics And Social Justice

12 min read

Editor’s Observe: FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth for January 2023 is Gender And Journalism. We invite submissions on this theme all through the month. If you want to contribute, kindly discuss with our submission pointers and e-mail your articles to [email protected]

Set off Warnings: Mentions and graphic descriptions of sexual assault and acid assaults

Neha Dixit is an Indian journalist based mostly in New Delhi. She has extensively reported on and written about human trafficking, gender-based violence, police brutality, and the felony justice system in South Asia, amongst many different essential themes. Her floor information stories, opinion items and long-form articles have fetched her quite a few nationwide and worldwide awards over the previous decade together with the CPJ Worldwide Press Freedom Award in 2019. 

On this interview, she displays upon her preliminary few years as a girl journalist, the challenges she has confronted over the previous decade and what she considers to be the way forward for South Asian journalism. 

FII: What’s it like being a girl within the discipline of journalism in India? Is there any incident that caught with you throughout your profession as a journalist by which you confronted discrimination or dismissal by advantage of being a girl?

Neha Dixit: I’ve been a journalist for 15 years and have been working independently for the final 10 years. In each working full-time with mainstream organisations and dealing as a freelancer, it’s type of difficult once you place it within the present social-political local weather. Journalism shouldn’t be faraway from the society that’s round us. The type of patriarchal biases, and the type of sexism that one faces as a girl are the identical that percolate in mainstream media.

The very fundamental factor that issues for a journalist is the type of tales that you just get to report. Earlier, we used to listen to all of the senior ladies journalists say that 40 years again when there have been no ladies in journalism, they had been instructed to report solely on flower reveals and child reveals. Now, it has come a good distance the place someone like me can do political tales. 

Additionally Learn: Cyber harassment, Trolls, And Cancel Tradition: A Lingering Menace To Ladies And Queer In Journalism 

Supply: Georgia Straight

Once I began out 15 years in the past, I used to be a “younger lady of 21 years of age” who was straight out of faculty. I keep in mind I had gone to interview Sharad Yadav on ladies’s reservation and was sporting a pair of denims and a T-shirt. He had already made some sexist statements in opposition to reservation for girls and had stated there can be “parkati” (short-haired) ladies in parliament. After which he noticed me on this western apparel and easily refused to speak to me. The truth that I used to be a younger lady instantly scattered my possibilities at doing a honest story and a severe political piece. A male journalist my age would haven’t been dismissed so simply if he was sporting a shirt or a pair of denims.

So it begins with that after which regularly you retain working at it and there comes some extent 5 years later when all people’s like, “Okay, nicely, she will be able to do this“. Earlier, after I would go to the sphere with the digital camera particular person or with the driving force and converse to individuals, the boys there wouldn’t give solutions to my questions. If I’d ask them one thing, they’d reply to the cab driver or to the digital camera particular person as an alternative.

There have been different odd incidents the place a Khap panchayat particular person stated, “Oh in case you had been from our group and had been roaming round with some digital camera particular person, we’d have simply killed you and buried you.” In order that type of devaluation stays fixed. If you’re a girl, then they won’t query no matter you reported, however they wish to query the whole lot round you. 

See, I grew up in Lucknow. So no lady from my household had gone to every other metropolis to review and my household needed me to do drugs or engineering as a result of that’s how we get married. Once I stated that I needed to review journalism, and I needed to come back to Delhi, there was an enormous drawback due to your typical North Indian Brahmin, patriarchal, repressive form of perspective. I used to be in Miranda home for 3 years after which I did my masters from Jamia.

However my father didn’t go to me for 4 years. Why I’m speaking about it is because regardless of not having that type of ethical help from my household, I nonetheless come from a privileged background, as a result of I’m higher caste, I used to be center class, and I had gone to an English medium college. Proper now, ladies Journalists in smaller cities face far worse. 

Additionally Learn: Ladies Journalists: Reporting Loss From The International South

FII: What motivated you to deal with human trafficking in South Asia? Would you want to speak concerning the challenges you confronted whereas reporting on trafficking in numerous Indian states? Moreover, what do you assume wants to vary in Indian society?

Neha Dixit: My coaching was very feminist by way of my programs, my professors, and no matter I did. Every time we’d discuss human trafficking, it might be about business intercourse trafficking. However after I began working and assembly lots of people who had been repatriation specialists, that’s after I discovered that business sexual exploitation is only one a part of trafficking. Round 2008, there was quite a lot of bride trafficking that used to occur in Haryana and Punjab, as a result of the intercourse ratio had dipped because of the sex-selective abortions, and so ladies had been referred to as paros. They had been purchased and introduced from Kerala and different states. One bride can be purchased for a lot of members of the identical household. So it was actually brutal and merciless.

Supply: The Woke Journal

There was additionally trafficking for a lot of placement companies to convey ladies from tribal areas of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, to Delhi and place them as live-in maids in homes. Then I discovered how there have been baby troopers who had been getting used someday between 2008 and 2010 when a number of Maoist coops had been lively in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. They had been forcefully taking away youngsters to make use of them as baby troopers. Why I’m saying it is because it’s all I realised that every one of that is structural. And in an analogous method, I discovered the variety of madrassas in Delhi. They had been working sweatshops contained in the madrassa compounds for kids as younger as 4, 5 or 6 who had been introduced by the madrassas in view of free housing and free meals and free schooling. However contained in the compound, they had been working for Spykar denims and Hole and making Adidas footballs and Nike footballs.

Additionally Learn: The Many Risks Of Being A Girl Journalist In Kashmir

In a single research I did was that I discovered that there have been 32 tribal women from tribal communities in Assam who had been taken to Punjab and Gujarat for the aim of indoctrination in political limbo. And so, I traced these ladies and I additionally corroborated from there. 

How we perceive trafficking by way of well-liked cinema and thru mainstream narratives is that some persons are purchased after which abused. However, other than business sexual exploitation, we additionally must see that something that’s taking place round us by way of a really dominant form of political ideology additionally allows trafficking. It is extremely essential to grasp the assorted layers of visitors as a result of once you discuss sexual violence, it’s associated to trafficking.

Once you discuss ladies’s empowerment that’s additionally associated to trafficking. Once you discuss youngsters as younger as three or 4 being trafficked, that additionally talks about the place they’re coming from. An intersectional strategy that trafficking brings is required to grasp issues.

FII: You have got confronted fairly a couple of authorized troubles due to the social points you could have reported on over the previous decade. How have you ever nonetheless managed to fearlessly proceed reporting on these points with out getting intimidated?

Neha Dixit: I believe it might be unsuitable to say that I’ve not been intimidated. By way of legalities and threats, to me, they’ve been normalised. And to an extent, I’ve additionally been desensitised. It began in 2013 with all these lengthy threats about how individuals plan to rape you, whether or not it’s going to be a metal rod, or whether or not it’s going to be a rosebush with thorns. However in 2016, these three circumstances had been filed in opposition to me which have been happening since then and I’ve to go to Guwahati each two months. Other than defamation circumstances, one case that they filed was of inciting communal hatred. Defamation circumstances had been at all times filed in opposition to journalists, however now they’ve began submitting felony circumstances in opposition to us that are much more difficult within the court docket of legislation. 

Supply: IFJ

Coming to the intimidation half, that doesn’t scare me a lot as a result of there are people who find themselves in jail as we speak proper now. What really scared me extra was after I acquired direct calls from high cops after I did a story on how the police were doing encounters and killing individuals with a transparent motive to kill. They stated, “We all know the place your mom lives, so why are you doing this?” When there’s a risk to 1’s household, that’s what scares me. No matter I face is ok, however my relations shouldn’t face one thing related due to what I’m doing. 

What was additionally actually unhealthy for me in 2020 was that I used to be stalked for 5 months. I acquired telephone calls from some 150-200 telephone numbers the place individuals would really establish my bodily location.  They might name and say, “We will see that you just’re standing within the balcony and we’ll be capable of come and rape you,” or “We will see that you just’ve simply purchased greens from the market, and we’re now going to throw acid on you.”

Supply: Femina

After which lastly, someone stated the identical factor on the twenty fifth, of January 2021 they will enter my home and throw acid on my face. Saying that they tried to interrupt into the home. That was scary as a result of it crops a perennial doubt in your thoughts. For me, it was very troublesome after that. Every time I’d stroll on the street, and see somebody with a bottle that had some liquid in it,  I needed to really put my hand like this (*locations her hand over her chest) and inform myself, “It’s not acid.” You’re at all times in that state of concern and it takes quite a lot of work to inform your self that. 

FII: What are your ideas on censorship and the way have you ever managed to cope with it as a journalist? Furthermore, how have you ever remained true to your values and political views as a journalist in a rustic that always forces one to internalise the beliefs of majoritarian political teams?

Neha Dixit: They’ve tried to censor me and my work by submitting these circumstances, proper? They’re attempting to censor me by threatening me, stalking me, attempting to interrupt into my home, and attempting to threaten my relations. So, there may be censorship within the air the place the whole lot that you’re writing, whether or not you’re writing a tweet, a 12,000-word investigation over 4 months, a e book, or making a movie, the whole lot is being censored. In order that’s one bigger form of structural form of censorship at work. 

The opposite factor that’s extra harmful and that bothers me is the type of self-censorship the place we’re all censoring ourselves. Once you fireplace three circumstances in opposition to me and also you attempt to break into my home, the subsequent time I wish to pitch a narrative concept, I’ll assume if I wish to face one other authorized case and if I’ve the cash to foot the invoice of that case. 

What has helped is that I’ve been a freelancer. I do hear from quite a lot of journalists that tales get killed contained in the newsroom as a result of they are saying they wish to do a narrative and the editor says no. Once I did my investigation on rapes in Muzaffarnagar during the riots in 2013, I did it for an organisation and so they refused to publish it. I withdrew it and gave it to a different one and it got here out as a canopy story. As a freelancer, I’ve realized to subvert the system and dodge censorship that’s inside newsrooms. If one doesn’t publish, I give it to the second. If the second doesn’t, I nonetheless know that the story will finally come up.

Supply: Getty Photos/AFP

In fact, I’ve to inform myself daily that I can’t cease and that may solely occur when you could have a superb help system. When you could have individuals, pals, colleagues, and mentors who let you know “Go forward and do it.” With out that help system, you can’t beat censorship. One thing I miss about myself is that earlier, I’d simply go and do no matter I needed to do by way of my work. Now, I believe earlier than I’m going and that’s the bit that bothers me.

FII: What, in response to you, is the way forward for South Asian journalism for non-cis males who wish to take it up as a career? 

Neha Dixit: Mine is an unpopular opinion, however I’ll nonetheless say it. I’m very hopeful about the way in which journalism is true now within the nation. We see there’s quite a lot of corporate-political nexus in mainstream media, the whole lot is being compromised, there aren’t any ethics, persons are being purchased over and there may be censorship on the similar time, there may be nonetheless resistance from the bottom. There’s a form of decentralisation of democratisation of media that has occurred. Additionally, due to numerous on-ground and off-ground actions and know-how. So for instance, I used to be masking elections in February final yr, and I used to be in some village and Adamgarh and this outdated man got here to me and requested, “Aap YouTuber hain?”  (Are you a YouTuber?) and I stated, “Nahi, mai patrakaar hu,” (No, I’m a journalist). He replied saying, “Tab baat nahi karoonga!” (Then, I received’t speak to you).

Additionally Learn: Extra Feminine Journalists Guarantee Higher Feminist Views In Journalism

So, in a manner, I used to be very pleased, as a result of why do you have to belief some one who’s come from Delhi, and who has their very own ulterior motive? Should you’re a YouTuber, they’ve extra religion which signifies that individuals from their very own neighborhood, from their very own communities, are arising and reporting issues that matter to them in a manner that they finest perceive. In that manner, I see many, many smaller media organisations, rooted in communities arising all over the place, specializing in the wants of these communities, run by individuals from these communities. That’s breaking caste, class, gender, all hierarchies which are attainable.

Supply: Worldwide Press Insititute

And so all these gatekeepers sitting in metropolitan cities, their recreation is over now. We’ve seen all of the surveys the place mainstream media is occupied by solely upper-caste individuals, proper? And so I’m very, very hopeful that it’s altering, and it’ll additional decentralise, additional democratise. Additionally, in India, we now have the most important inhabitants of neo-literates who’re studying in their very own language. So no matter intellectualisation and theoretical evaluation you wish to do in English, go and sit in your room as a result of they aren’t going to learn it. Report from the bottom and that’s what persons are going to learn. 

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