News18 Kerala woman journalist attempts suicide after termination

The corporatisation of newsrooms puts journalists under tremendous pressure and, even the best in the profession feel like quitting at times, revealed journalists in Kerala as they responded to the suicide attempt of a woman journalist based in Thiruvanathapuram. The woman who stays with her husband in Thiruvanathapuram was serving her notice period and, on her last day at office, she reportedly left for home with a troubled mind.

The woman, who was working as a news producer with News18 Kerala, tried to kill herself on Wednesday night after her conversation with Rajeev Devaraj, who heads the channel in Kerala failed. News18 Kerala is a one-year-old Malayalam news channel owned by Reliance Industries’ Network 18. According to sources, the woman was going through severe stress after she was forced to quit the job at News18 Kerala following an appraisal review. Around 20 employees have lost job in the appraisal drive by the channel.

Colleagues and friends of the victim said that the woman was self-made and hardworking. Hailing from a Dalit (and economically-backward) family, she has reportedly overcome adverse circumstances to build up her career in journalism. Women journalists in the State have taken the issue seriously and have voiced their concern regarding job security and fake appraisals. It has been alleged that Rajeev Devaraj and team at News18 Kerala adopts a hostile attitude to the employees, especially the women staff who they find not fit in their group. It is also reported that the woman had a rift with senior news anchor Saneesh regarding a news clip she had produced a month ago and following this, she had lodged a complaint with her superior.

The woman who was admitted at Ananthapuri Hospital is still under observation and on Saturday noon suffered a stomach infection. Her health condition is under control, as informed by several of her friends. For a channel that is new to the business in the State, News18 Kerala has already gained notoriety for adopting tough measures against its employees. A former employee said that she quit the job following consistent pressure from the HR Department to join work at a distant location, when she tried to re-join work in Thiruvanathapuram after her maternity leave.

The matter of removing 20 employees terming them ‘under-performed’ is seen with suspicion by the media fraternity. The woman who attempted suicide is said to have pointed fingers at Rajeev Devaraj, S Lallu, T N Prakash and B Dileep Kumar for allegedly conspiring and lobbying to terminate her career. The Kochi Post has reliably learnt that the woman had neither received any show cause notice nor a chance to improve productivity before she was forced to quit. The senior women journalists associated with Network of Women in Media (NWIM) visited the victim at the hospital and was informed that the woman was traumatised after she was forced to quit her job, which she is passionate about.

Rajeev Devaraj, responding to the issue said the woman in question was consistently gaining poor appraisal marks. “She was on leave for two days and the HR had told her about the management’s decision when she re-joined. Since she did not understand it fully, I had a long conversation with her in my cabin,” he told the members of NWIM. Meanwhile, senior journalists in the State said that corporate media houses had often adopted unethical mass employee cuts in the past. Forced resignation of senior staff is a common practice in media houses, they opine.

The police have registered a case based on the woman’s statement. The statement of the victim was initially registered by Vanchiyoor police and the case was later handed over to Thumba police station as the incident took place in its jurisdiction. It is informed that the Chief Minister as well as the Home Ministry has ordered a thorough probe as it is a case involving atrocities against women. Meanwhile the SC/ST Commission on its own has registered a case against Rajeev Devaraj, based on the victim’s statements.

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