Nava J. Thakuria
Hyderabad: The national executive committee meeting of Indian Journalists Union (IJU), which concluded on Sunday in the capital city of Telangana, discussed various burning issues concerning the practitioners of journalism across India and emphasized on effective safety & security to journalists, reforms in Press Council of India (PCI) and basic minimum facilities to the media fraternity sustaining the spirit under freedom of the press to serve the largest democracy on the globe.
Chaired by IJU president K Sreenivas Reddy, the two-day meet held at Tourism Plaza in Begumpet locality expressed serious concern over killings of journalists by anti-social elements and filing of cases against journalists and media houses to give a signal to them to fall in line or face the music. In presence of representatives from almost all States and union territories including Assam and Ladakh, the meet also expressed concern over a very large number of journalists falling prey to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The IJU urged the authorities to probe the murders of five journalists till date in 2021 and provide adequate compensations to the victim families. It also appealed to the Union government to declare working journalists as frontline warriors and sanction compensation to all corona-victims in media across the country, which should be in exclusion to the compensatory amount of money, declared by various State governments. The national union of scribes urged the provincial governments, where journalists succumbed to the corona virus invasion, to announce compensatory packages to the affected families.
Expressing concern over the growing number of attacks on journalists (where India lost five journalists namely Raman Kashyap, Manish Kumar Singh, Chenna Keshav, Sulabh Srivastava and Ashu Yadav to assailants) and media organizations in different parts of the country, the IJU meet demanded a specific law to deal with such situations applicable across India. It also urged the government not to misinterpret and misuse various laws with an aim to harass media houses not falling in line.
In a different issue, the IJU has denounced the dictatorial and unlawful activities of the outgoing PCI chairman justice CK Prasad and demanded the restoration of credibility of the quasi-judicial body with rightful representation to the national unions. Moreover, the IJU reiterated its demand to widen the PCI with the inclusion of electronic & digital media and to rename it as Media Council of India.
The influential union demanded reinstallation of the Working Journalists Act with more favourable provisions encompassing wages, wage revisions, job security, pension benefits and the whole gamut of working conditions for professional journalists in the country. The meet, in a resolution passed unanimously, termed the amalgamation of the WJA 1955, into a code, where working journalists are bundled along with sales representatives, as dangerous to the democracy.
As clarified by the Supreme Court of India, the freedom of press in the country is inherently laid down in the constitutionally guaranteed rights to the freedom of expression. A free press, one of the most essential ingredients for safeguarding the democracy is in turn the sacred duty of working journalists and stripping of the rightfully accorded special recognition of a fraternity vested with such weighty responsibility, spells danger to the very fabric of democracy, the resolution stated.
The IJU has felt that in the present complex media scenario, it is all the more important that laws governing media & media persons and regulation of various media are strengthened with a view to promote free media and buttress the right to free speech. Instead of resorting to such progressive measures the Union government has thought it fit to strip the working journalists of their special recognition as enshrined in the WJA. The IJU meet has urged the Centre to rectify the anomaly immediately by reinstalling the concerned act.
Union minister for tourism, culture and DoNER (development of north-eastern region) Gangapuram Kishan Reddy also graced the occasion, where he appealed to the media fraternity to play a pro-active role in the growth of the nation. He agreed to initiate supports to corona- media victims and pragmatic actions for the welfare and enrichment of journalists across the country. Andhra Pradesh information commissioner Vijay Kumar Reddy also addressed the gathering on the concluding day.
Earlier, Telangana minister for tourism, excise and sports V Srinivas Goud graced the opening day programs and assured all possible supports to media persons of the newly created Telangana State. A number of senior journalists including IJU secretary general Balwinder Singh Jammu, IJU former presidents SN Sinha and Devulapalli Amar (presently the national media adviser to AP government), IJU vice-president Ambati Anjaneyulu, Scribes News editor Alapati Suresh Kumar, IJU secretary Y Narender Reddy were present in the meet, which was hosted by the Telangana State Union of Working Journalists.