Dealing with online abuse

It is not easy dealing with online trolls or abuse. It is very easy to tell someone else to ignore such and give no importance. I have been called prestitude – despite not taking anything apart from official salary and till now NOT written with any agenda. I let that pass, though I did file a written complaint with the cyber crime cell. In February 2016, I had tweeted the information of Press Club protest march (which was just a demonstration) followed by speeches. On the day of the protest I was threatened with sexual violence, “hard gang rape.” This sexual violence threat I forwarded to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and Mumbai Police to their twitter handles. They asked me to go to the nearest police station. I showed the written threat to my political editor friend Samar Khadas and senior journalist Samar Khadas and senior journalist and BUJ leader M J Pandey. They both insisted that I go and lodge a FIR. Later I sent the details to the joint commissioner of police, Deven Bharati who directed me to Azad Maidan police station.

Even though Filing and FIR is our fundamental right, the police will always convince you to get away filing a Non-Cognisable (NC) offence. In my case despite intervention from Jt. CP, the lady constable insisted on omly a NC. Thankfully my colleague and a friend from TOI called and she was horrified to hear they were filing only a NC and insisted I speak to their crime reporter who in turn called the Jt CP and he was told on record it was a FIR. By then the Senior PI was ordered to return to the police station. The lady constable Like all youth, displayed her inexperience in everything. Filing the details, technology usage & patience. Thankfully universe conspired and the file simply got erased or in her words, “aho te file udali.” She bawled and I wanted to laugh! Quite an irony. By then it was 8.30-8.45pm, already 2 hours into the matter.

Now usually despite being a senior journalist with the senior police officials calling the station, one would have expected things to move fast. However, the picture at the police station is absolutely different. They look busy while you wonder if they are doing anything. While I sat waiting, I observed that the so-called comfortable seat was a hard, wooden bakda with a stained mattress and a bed sheet that looked unwashed for atleast a month. Yes, so where was I? At being ordered to be comfortable.

Then after recovering from the disaster of the file getting erased, she went to inform the Sr PI who told me “madam because of your case I was specially asked to supervise. Why take trouble. And you have shown your maturity by not shouting at this inexperienced constable we are obliged. Come sit, we shall file your FIR.” Whole tone being he was doing me a favour. By which time my friend made it a point to call me every 15 minutes to ensure I was not really alone. We then dissected the IT act section on pornography. I argued it was a pervert threat and he insisted that section was only for pornography. But he did hint we could add more sections later.

I am genuinely surprised I did not shout or lose it. I wasn’t the least unnerved. Oh yes, the Sr PI gave me hot tea, to ensure I don’t get upset. Then the bit of narrating the whole incident again. He asked me for a hard copy which I didn’t have. Hard part was trying to make the new cop understand what is twitter & social media. By then I Took a screen shot, emailed it to the police and they printed it out to attach to the complaint. That I had to translate it in Marathi when they read the FIT, was a task. Two of my friends had joined me from 9.30pm and at 10.30pm Samar finally stood up and instructed the lady constable to allow me to go for dinner and we would return to take the copy of FIR. Meanwhile the police were in constant contact with the cyber crime cell.

Now after this my story was not over. I went 4 days later to enquire and they requested me to give the twitter India head’s contacts and email I-d. They had forewarned me it takes few months, my Twitter contact insisted max 20 days! I kept tracking since then. I nearly gave up, until recently when a lady political spokesperson filed a FIR in similar online threat. Accused in my case is still not found. I was told the Twitter USA is not forthcoming sharing ip add details. If any white, American woman had receive such threats the accused’ details would be given promptly to the cops and would be behind bars. Or not? I do not know, I believe the Mumbai police because I know the emails sent and the steps they have taken. So I do not know the status on investigations from the U.S. Side. Here I know the cops have been forthcoming with details, have been cooperative and have done everything they should have.

Now here are some do’s and don’t’s

Look confident, not scare and definitely not over smart
Insist on filing a FIR
As educated citizens do read up a bit on some sections, even if it is on Google
Carry hard copy of the threat, email, whatever evidence – only hard copies are attached to
Despite the hard copy ask if hey wish you to email it to them
Do not say what happens in any other county apart from India
Try to squeeze in some words in local language – because the FIR is written in the local Lang.
Ask the, to read it out and only after that you sign it
Smile when you can
Do NOT shout, at any time
Even if they try your patience
Go with someone but ensure that person is not annoying the cops
Try to win advantage to being understanding
Be stern about the time you have spent and details of the incident
Be observant – this disclaimer is most important from the moment you walk inside the station

Most of all, go and file your complaint. Lodge it at cyber cell at BKC. They made my case an exception, but it is essential you go to the cyber crime cell. They are helpful. Keep track, take the number of police officer there. Do NOT presume the cops are doing nothing. Do not fear after three months your case may shut, it doesn’t. The delay IS from the U.S. Side.

New media

While we discuss the peril of new media social networking & its impact on young, mouldable minds, let’s accept one fact new media has revolutionised communication & networking. And in ways we would never have anticipated previously or even imagined.
A few weeks ago when the winds of Revolution hit Mid eastern shores, there were people who had begun to tweet, upload various videos on youtube.com. Egyptian blogger Abdulkareem Nabeel Sulaiman, known as Kareem Amer, who went missing after leaving Tahrir Square.
There after a lady also blogged & uploaded videos on youtube. The new social media is changing the concept of ‘media’ & networking. From conversations  on inane subjects, low level bitching, gossiping, it comes as NO surprise that today young & old are speaking of support to citizens in Egypt, Tunisian people, demanding US take strong action against Libya & like one said, “Blow the shit out of Gadaffi, not just his planes.”
That is the power of the new media. What is most interesting is that even traditional media has to now not only keep pace with these New media, but also acknowledge their role. @ReallyVirtual, the name has changed the concept of news, real-time tweeting. He has achieved what many a journalist can only dream. Be at the right place at the wrong time. Sohaib Athar, needed time to de-stress & get away from his work.
So Athar headed to Abbottabad. The cool, hill station for the British, where once Pakistan got its freedom, they made it a military head quarters. Interestingly, the place where Athar was staying, was right next to the military base on one side & military academy on the other. Athar had taken his laptop & was fiddling on the net with his wifi attachment. When on May 2, he heard unusual sounds of the helicopters. Primarily American, considering the US has a solid presence in Pakistan.
With the vibrations of the armed forces helicopter the windows of his room began shaking. Obviously the copter was not just doing rounds, there were rounds being fired, when Athar tweeted, “Hope its not start of something nasty.”
Within minutes the world outside had learnt of Athar’s tweet. In less than 30 minutes, Athar was a real-hero that most on virtual have been waiting for. He broke news that most journalists would give their lives to hear –The End of Osama Bin Laden. Well, that he was NOT aware the military action was to finish OBL, is another point altogether. That Athar tweeted LIVE of it, is a reality we all now have come to terms with.
The new media has changed forms of communication, media, journalism & communication. I follow BarrackObama, my all-time favourite Julia Roberts because i think NO one has the smile she has; i follow my all-time hero Michael Jordan, alias AIR, the one who’s life-size poster is pasted opposite to my bed, so that when i rise every morning i see THE man who has inspired me. This trivia apart, i would NEVER have imagined that i would be able to ‘communicate’ with my real-life hero, had it not been for Twitter.
Mark Zuckerbug’s FB has done wonders to us all. Re-connected us to our childhood friends, long lost pals, for many their true-loves, their exes & more so for most their connection to their family & friends. The FB was seen as the revolutionary tool. In many ways it was pioneering for the new media tools that we now have at our disposal. Again it is unbelievable that the so called who’s who would be on FB & we would be able to connect in each other’s lives.
Till now we have grown up with traditional media. In early 90s in India we saw trickles of change & began ‘hearing’ of internet. Within days all changes began taking place. Today, the traditional media & new media can’t be indepedent of each other. In fact the newspapers, TV Channels just can’t Ignore new media, the netowrking sites. Plenty of story ideas, scoops & comments from people who otherwise may simply decline to ‘comment’ on any issue openly.

The New media is setting new benchmarks & new parametres for reporting. This is a new trend in journalism/media & definitely something more exciting to look out for.