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Press Communique from the Muvman Liberasyon Fam on a case of sexual harassment


Lalit publishes a press communique issued by Muvman Liberasyon Fam to support Valery Kallee in her formal complaints against sexual harassment by her boss, the MBC radio director, Mr. Jacques Maunick.

Press Communique from the MUVMAN LIBERSYON FAM on a case of sexual harassment

The MUVMAN LIBERASYON FAM delegated two of our members to meet Ms. Valerie Kallee who had requested support from the women's movement while she was undergoing the difficult ordeal of reporting a case of sexual harassment to her employers and to the police. It was Rajni Lallah and Lindsey Collen who went to meet her on the evening of Tuesday 10th February at her house in Rose-Hill. Her mother, father, sister and work colleagues were also present. The meeting lasted two and a quarter hours.

Our members listened attentively to Ms Valerie Kallee as she gave descriptions of the harassment suffered by her during her work as radio journalist at the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation. Our members realized, as she spoke that she clearly has a BONA FIDE case against her boss in the MBC hierarchy, Mr. Jacques Maunick. They also realized that the daily briefings at MBC radio had gradually turned into a nightmare for any ordinarily sensitive journalist, woman or man.

The MLF therefore calls on the police and the MBC Board to act diligently in their respective enquiries into the matter. We realize that Mr. Maunick is a powerful professional, comes from a family with considerable influence in its own right and which is related by marriage to the Jugnauth dynasty, itself. This makes it all the more important that justice be done, and be seen to be done. We are told that when Ms. Shirin Aumeeruddy-Cziffra was Chairman of the MBC Board, she had promised that there would be an internal enquiry into Mr. Maunick's behavior, following a written protest by women radio journalists and signed by one amongst them. We do not know if, in fact, there was an enquiry, and if so, what the conclusions were.

Our members believe that there has clearly been a serious abuse of power and ongoing generalized sexual harassment at the MBC radio, as well as in particular individual cases, like that of Ms. Kallee. Other radio journalists gave witness of the calvary that they too, like Valerie Kallee, have suffered.

The question as to how the radio journalists put up for so long with this unspeakable situation is raised. Evidently the "precarity"of work conditions contributed. A top male manager has the power, all on his own, to change women journalists' pay-packets and contracts. He decides on their "travail, de [leur] potentiel, de [leur] prochaines emissions". If journalists were employed staff, as they should be, it would certainly have been easier for them to prevent the harassment from ever taking place.

The question as to how a Public Body like the MBC, under the Prime Minister's Office, can have allowed a situation to get this bad is of great concern to us in the women's movement. Everyone knows just how much successive Prime Ministers have kept and still keep tight control over the political content of MBC's broadcasts. We believe that this party-political interference in the MBC is partly responsible for giving excessive powers to someone like the director of radio. If a director at the MBC controls all news relating to the Prime Minister so as systematically to "protect" him from any criticism, it can only be expected that it be perceived that the Prime Minister would, in turn, "owe" protection to his "protector from criticism". This perception of being protected adds to the impunity of the harasser.

The MLF notes that the new legislation brought in by this Government on sexual harassment is a step in the right direction. But the Government also has a duty to create the conditions necessary to decrease or prevent sexual harassment. The Government must also accord the necessary support to women victims who have the courage to denounce those who harass them.

The MLF salutes Ms Kallee's courage in bringing to the notice of the public a situation of abuse of power that had gradually gone from bad to worse at the MBC radio, as well as reporting her own suffering of sexual harassment.

Ragini Kistnasamy and Veena Dholah
For the MLF
15 February 2004