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Inspiring stories of fearless women journalists



By Shivani Singh

It was time to listen to the inspiring stories of the invincible women in the media at a recently held virtual meeting. The School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) of Apeejay Stya University organised a webinar titled “Invisible to Invincible” to have a conversation with three distinguished women journalists  namely Seema Mustafa, the Editor-in-Chief of The Citizen, Ritambhara Shastri, former Chief News Editor of the United News of India (UNI), and Naz Asghar, the Founder Editor of India News Stream and former Bureau chief of UNI, Delhi.

The webinar was organised with an aim to encourage journalism students to practice the art of fearlessly reporting. Hence, the topic of this webinar was, the journey of women journalists from “no one can see you” to “no one can beat you”. 

The webinar was hosted by Ms Baisakhi Dalapati, who welcomed the guests and attendees present at the event. One of the distinguished guests at the event was  Prof. R.S. Dhankar, Vice Chancellor, Apeejay Stya University. Addressing the attendees, Prof. Dhankar in his speech appreciated women’s role in every field in this male dominated society. He pointed at women’s endless passion, motivation, and honesty especially in the media industry, giving examples of women who have reached great heights in their area of expertise. He further lauded women who fearlessly travel in danger zones and report at night. He repeatedly highlighted women’s dedication to their professions – “they are all breaking walls and barriers,” he said.

The first speaker of the event Ritambhara Shastri very rightly said, “One needs a spine to stand on”. She was the first women journalist recruited in the UNI. She retired from the same organization as the Chief News Editor. She shared her story of recruitment in UNI while further  narrating how the authorities mistakenly believed that she was ‘Mr.’ and not ‘Ms’. Her name printed on the interview letter was rightly spelled but prefixed with ‘Mr’. Hence she became the first women employee in the United News of India. Shastri spoke about several of her projects.  One of them was very touchy and interesting when she narrated her visit to Amritsar where she met a doctor who was not ashamed to perform an amniocentesis test. Following which she filed a story on pre-sex determination which created a major uproar in Parliament and led to passing of a law on ban of sex determination before birth. She also shared her travel stories from Rajasthan, Bangladesh, and Bundelkhand, where there were no washrooms and they had to dig a pit and wrap a saree around it. She also stated that news has to be people centric.

Following Ritambhara Shastri, it was time for the audience to hear from Seema Mustafa, the newly elected President of the Editors Guild of India. Mustafa primarily covered stories from conflict zones of Punjab, Kashmir, and Assam. She stressed majorly on one’s sensitivity towards patriarchy, caste, and creed. She stated, “You are the fourth pillar of democracy, that you work for the country, and that your job is exciting.” She believes strongly that a journalist is neither a man nor a woman but a journalist and all of them must do this task rightly; fight for it; fight together for every good cause. She questioned all journalists who fear covering certain stories, “How can you say it’s fire and can’t be covered? Journalism itself is fire.”

“Nothing can stop you from reporting the truth,” were the words of our third speaker, Naz Asghar. The Founder Editor of India News Stream, she was also the first woman Bureau Chief of UNI, Delhi. While talking about her journey in the media industry, she mentioned the Babri Masjid dispute, one of the major projects she has handled as well as a range of other news stories she has covered in her reasonably long career. She said during her career she never felt any pressure coming from her editor or management. She never faced any fear or pressure while covering sensitive political stories or while doing any ground level reporting. She too strongly believes, “Ground level reporting is an absolute must to experience true journalism.”