A television news channel in Guwahati came under fire on May 22 from several journalists’ organizations, when serious allegations were levied against it that it had forced one of its female journalists to resign as she was pregnant.

The journalist organizations demanded that the journalist be immediately reinstated in her job and all maternity benefits be extended to her as per the law of the land.

As per allegations raised by the journalist, Ranjita Rabha, she was forced to quit her job in Prag News after the management conveyed to her that since pregnancy could hamper her movements, she should resign from her position.

Her request to be sanctioned unpaid leave till after childbirth, was also reportedly turned down by the management, claiming that the company purportedly has no maternity leave or benefit policy.

She was sent on paid leave from end of March till April, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, and then asked to resign, as alleged by Rabha.

Expressing serious concern over the issue, Indian Journalists Union (IJU) said ‘the plea of the Prag News channel management for sacking her was unacceptable and this is a clear case of gender discrimination’.

IJU president and former member of Press Council of India Geetartha Pathak and secretary general and vice-president of International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Sabina Inderjit, in a statement, said, “Sacking an expecting mother-journalist who is on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19 at this critical period is inhuman and gender biased”.

The IJU demanded that the management immediately reinstate Rabha and extend all facilities, including maternity benefits to its employees as permissible under the law of land.

The Gender Council of Journalists Union of Assam (JUA), the Assam state body of IJU, in a separate statement, expressed ‘great shock and disbelief’ over the incident.

“She was reportedly asked to quit as ‘she is pregnant so she will not be able to work properly, they need more active and mobile people to run around’ (as the managing editor of Prag News conveyed to Rabha, regarding the reason for the CMD ‘not expecting her at work’),” the Gender Council statement said, quoting Rabha.

Demanding reinstatement of Rabha, the Gender Council also asked for compensation for ‘the mental harassment and trauma that she has been subjected to’.

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), in a separate statement, said, “The NWMI deplores the manner in which a media organization, the primary duty and responsibility of which is to uphold the principles and values of a democratic and just society, respect for the rule of law and the rights of individuals and institutions, has failed to provide a basic right to its employees that they are entitled to under the law of the land.”

The statement further said, “The NWMI is firmly committed to press freedom and Prag News should well remember the Network’s statement condemning the attack on the office and employees of the news channel by security personnel on December 14, 2019 during the anti-CAA protests.”

The NWMI has demanded Prag News authorities allow Rabha to withdraw her resignation letter and allow her to resume her duties at the channel with immediate effect and subsequently avail the maternity leave to which she is legally entitled for the required period at the appropriate time.

The NWMI also urged the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the Assam State Commission for Women (ASCW) to take suo moto cognizance of the issue.

Several senior journalists of Guwahati expressed ‘serious concern over the unfair and illegal approach of a news channel management towards a scribe asking her to leave the job because of her pregnancy’. They also urged Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to take note of the incident and ensure justice for the young journalist.

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