Tuesday, August 25

Maheen Usmani still fighting for her right

Again Maheen Usmani has come to the fore, while taking to task another lady, who is already in troubled waters due to her alleged rapport with the agencies, Naseem Zahra because of latter's somersaults for saving the already-tainted skin of the television administration. Succinctly, the dust is not settling yet, though many think it otherwise.
Ms Usmani has written another letter to all re-explaining her position and calling a spade a spade despite all odd circumstances.
Here is the letter:-

Dear All,

This is not the first time that Naseem Zehra has surfaced on this site regarding the harassment I had to face at Dunya News. I chose to resign rather than respond to the nauseating overtures made by the MD, Yousuf Beg Mirza. In doing so, I did not ask for anything except an apology from the MD for abusing his position and authority.
Since my resignation, I have been subjected to a continuous hostile campaign of defamation. All kinds of vile and repulsive propoganda has been unleashed at me just because I have chosen not to compromise, and give in to unprofessional and unethical conduct which unfortunately seems to be the norm in the electronic media. I have been very committed to my work, but I would always choose my integrity and principles over fame and success if I had to pay such a heavy price for it. Perhaps the 'gentleman' in question has found it hard to deal with a woman who has no qualms about stating the truth. Despite all the filth that has been heaped on my head, I had consciously chosen not to stoop to the level of the management at Dunya News, with whom I have had the misfortune of working with. However, the latest salvo from Ms. Naseem Zehra has made it imperative for me to break my silence, because such people need to be stopped in their tracks without any further ado.
Who is Naseem Zehra? A struggling programme host who is employed by Dunya News? What does she have to do with this case of harassment? The eagerness she has displayed in coming to the aid of the Dunya management and being their mouthpiece time and again is indeed amusing, and greatly at variance with her carefully cultivated image of espousing the cause of the emancipation of women and the oppressed. In her alacrity to jump to the defence of the Dunya management yet again, she has chosen to be economical with the truth. She says, "The opening up of a settled matter serves no purpose. Many on this list may be aware that the inquiry conducted within Dunya News and also externally came to the conclusion that the allegation made regarding sexual harassment was baseless." The truth of the matter is that the Dunya News' internal inquiry was merely a face saving exercise which is why it comprised of junior employees of such departments as IT and Operations from Lahore. My repeated requests to have impartial and independent minded people in the committee, which was supported by the International Federation of Journalists, was not heeded to by Dunya News. Naturally, the internal 'inquiry' did not come to any conclusion and sank without a trace. As far as the external inquiry is concerned, the National Press Club has been unable to give a verdict because Yousuf Beg Mirza appears reluctant to appear before them, for reasons best known to him. Since neither of the two enquiries has given a verdict so far, how can Naseem Zehra declare pompously that the allegations are 'baseless' or that the matter is 'settled?'
Why has Naseem Zehra conveniently forgotten to mention that initially she was the Convenor of the internal inquiry set up by Dunya News? She had the audacity to write a letter after I resigned, asking for a ban on my entry into the Islamabad office of Dunya News for the purpose of the enquiry. Ms Zehra asked all the employees to sign this letter, because I had "hurt the sentiments of the Dunya team" by levelling these alleagations against their paragon of virtue, YBM. The drivers, guards, peons, electricians et al were forced to sign the letter by the administration, and then a Current Affairs producer, working under Naseem Zehra, took it into the newsroom where the first person to happily affix his signature was none other than our honourable Bureau Chief, Mr. Rao Khalid. However, Ms Zehra's plans were thwarted when many of my former colleagues refused to sign the letter and started questioning why my entry should be banned in office. On seeing the dissent and uncompromising mood of the reporters, the letter and it's bearer beat a hasty retreat. After this unsavoury incident which showed the real face of Naseem Zehra and the Dunya management, I wrote a letter to the HR, Dunya News, protesting at this malicious and underhanded action of Naseem Zehra's and asked that how could she be the Convenor of this inquiry when she was trying her best to pressurise and subdue me? Eventually, Ms Zehra had to withdraw from the committee.
While the enquiry was being conducted, Naseem Zehra wrote a letter to the PFUJ stating that this case of harassment was based "on only one phone call". May I request her to kindly add to her reservoir of knowledge by googling the term 'sexual harassment' to know exactly what it means. I don't know how many phone calls from unsavoury characters it takes for Naseem Zehra to cry wolf, but for me one was quite enough, thank you very much. Hearing the MD offering me financial reimbursements and asking me to go to another room "takay aap mujh say khul kay baat kar sakain.." made me furious. Why should any female journalist take this kind of crap, just because the man happens to be in a senior position?
I am aware that many female journalists choose to remain silent in the face of sexual harassment, because they have little choice in the matter which has emboldened such unsavoury characters to spread their wings in the media. I hope that their mouthpieces and agents realise that the time has come to bring about a positive change in our field, and to eradicate or minimise the role of such people who have reached their exalted positions by toadying up to those in power and currying favours.

Maheen Usmani

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