Covering Conflict

Nupur Basu on her film Velvet Revolution that captures women journalists in conflict zones

Written by Somya Lakhani | Published:March 3, 2017 12:20 am
Nupur Basu, Velvet Revolution, Women Journalist in Conflict zones, Women journalist in newsrooms, Women Journalists in media, Women and Media, Latest news, India news, National news A still from the film Velvet Revolution.

“We had to fight patriarchy in the newsrooms but for every disenabling editor, there were two other male editors out there who really helped us,” says Nupur Basu, sharing her experience with Indian Epxress

When did you conceptualise Velvet Revolution and why?

In 2016, IAWRT came up with the theme “Women making news”, and this was quite close to my heart, having spent 35 years in journalism. I was thinking of issues of women in the media, and if in any way we are different from our male colleagues.

I could have started the movie with patriarchy in the newsroom but I wanted to show now that women are in journalism, what are their challenges. How are they countering and taking on challenges by the state, in terms of dictatorial regimes in countries, as well as non-state players which the state supports. Male journalists also have a fair share of challenges but women have a different set of problems. Our dangers become a notch higher. Women participating in the film told us that sexual assault is one big albatross that hangs around our neck on the field.

What are some of the stories the film tells?

There’s a radio journalist from Cameroon, who heads her station, telling you that till today they say, ‘You’re a woman, why are you coming in at 2 am to go after Boko Haram?’ Then there is Malini Subramaniam, who got thrown out of her home but continues to work, taking the train from Hyderabad to Bastar. There is the story of these Dalit women in Hyderabad who’ve been bringing out a magazine for the last 15 years. This is the first time that Rafida Bonya Ahmed, the Bangladeshi activist and blogger whose husband Avijit Roy was brutally hacked by Islamic extremists in Dhaka in 2015, has given an interview for a documentary. There is a segment where I interviewed senior journalists such as Lyse Doucet, chief international correspondent at BBC, who is in a conflict zone every day. There is Najiba Ayubi from Afghanistan; and Zaina Erhaim from Syria, who now lives in exile in Turkey.

And then, Ritu Sarin from The Indian Express. I was fascinated by the Panama Papers story because I was told that in this collaborative investigation comprising 300 journalists from across the world, 1/3rd of the journalists were women, which was impossible 10 years ago.

You started out as a journalist too. What role did your own experiences play in this movie?

At that time, there were very few women in journalism. We had to fight patriarchy in the newsrooms but for every disenabling editor, there were two other male editors out there who really helped us. We were determined but for everything that a man puts in 75 per cent, women put in 300 per cent.

What do you want the audience to take back home with them after watching Velvet Revolution?

This is a critical time for journalism world over as more and more dictatorial regimes take over, with state and non-state actors threatening us. We need to assess how women journalists are coping. I want people to take ownership of women journalists when they get trolled and abused, with such violent language.

The film will have its world premier at IIC today at 4 pm. It is being screened as part of the 13th IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival

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