IJU 5th Plenary Session
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, April 19-21 2003
I - On the state of Newspaper Industry and the Journalists in the country
This Plenary session of the IJU, held at Chennai on April 19-21, 2003, expresses its grave concern at the deteriorating work environment and working and service conditions in the newspaper industry, which have shown no signs of improvement over the past few years. In spite of our consistent efforts to secure government action and the employers' cooperation to improve the situation, in fact, neither these nor the notification of the Manisana Singh wage board awards has helped improve it . The awards remain unimplemented in most newspaper establishments, not only in the small and state capitals but in the major metropolises. The IJU's repeated and persistent appeals to the various governments to ensure their implementations and setup a tripartite committee to monitor and oversee it have fallen by and large on deaf ears.
The fate of our appeals to abolish the contract system and to enforce various labour laws has also been no different. A large number of employers are circumventing the provisions of the Working Journalists Act and other labour laws by taking recourse to the contract system and employing journalists on the basis of all-inclusive "package". Most other are not even appointment letters and flouting even the payment of wages and Minimum Wages Act with impunity. The question of following other labour laws does not even arise in these circumstances.
Even while working with missionary spirit against all such odds, the journalists are facing other difficulties in form of vicious attacks from both anti-social elements and law-enforcing agencies. The attacks on them by terrorists are already well known, so are those by the establishment and corrupt politicians. Who does not know the fate of the intrepid Kashmiri Journalists, who are arrested and confined in jail for a long period without even a shred of evidence.
The situation is far too serious than it was even a few years ago. Not only the life and limb and job security and wages of journalists are under threat but even the freedom of press is in jeopardy. The Central Press Accreditation Committee (CPAC) and other institutions setup to ensure and guarantee it are being packed by the governments with pliant yes persons.
We call upon union and state governments to give up their anti-media approach and appreciate that the freedom of press is vital for the health of the democracy. This session also appeals to all democratic forces in the country and our state unions and all fellow-journalists to appreciate the need of the hour and prepare to put up a united fight for the defense of press and its freedom.
II – On setting of a fresh Wage Board
Cognisant of the fact that the Manisana Singh wage awards based the salary structure on the situation a decade ago, the Chennai Plenary session of IJU urge the government to set up a fresh wage board to review the entire range of salaries and other benefits in the newspaper industry.
While taking comfort from the fact that even Union Labour Minister Sahib Singh Verma is aware of the need to review both the awards, this session demands that the Government also amend the relevant legal provision to declare the non-implementation of wage awards a cognizable criminal offence.
Since a large number of working journalists is employed in the electronic media, it would only be fare that they too, be covered by the next wage board and various labour laws in the country.
III – On Arrest of Nakeeran Gopal under POTA
TThe Indian Journalists Union (IJU) Chennai Plenary Session strongly condemns the arrest of senior journalist and Editor of Nakeeran Weekly, Nakeeran Gopal under Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) by the Government of Tamil Nadu. This is yet anther example of the state governments of using POTA to harass and victimise journalists who were carrying out their legitimate duties. The IJU urged the Union and State Governments to desist from misusing the POTA to browbate none- pliable journalists into submission. The misuse of POTA against journalists is infact an attack on the freedom of the Press and the IJU pledges to fight against this draconian law.
The IJU calls upon the journalist community in the country to rally round the victims of POTA and force the Tamil Nadu government to release Nakeeran Gopal immediately and unconditionally.
IV - On Second Labour Commision
The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) Chennai Plenary Session strongly condemns the recommendations of second Labour Commission which are clearly anti-labour and retrograde. The recommendations smack off a pro-employer policy in the grab of encouraging investment in the country, the commission unfortunately recommended labour laws, which favors only the employers. The commission recommends doing away with the wage boards and seeks to promote contractual employment which will adversely affect the independence of press. The IJU is committed to fight against anti-labour recommendations of the commission along with other sections of the working class.
V - On constitution of Media commision
Taking a note of the revolution in the field of Information Technology, the Indian Journalists Union expresses its deep regret that the Union Government has paid no heed to the demand for the constitution of a Media Commission.
The setting up of such a Media Commission has become all the more essential in the face of the rapid growth of not only Television journalism but also the Internet, web magazines/sites and print media. Unfortunately, the journalists working for television channels and the web magazines are not governed by or regulated by the Working Journalists Act or for that matter any other labour laws.
The emergence of new sector has changed the media scenario and the working conditions of the journalists. Regrettably, the journalists working in the Television Channels or on the websites have no rights, regulated working hours or any other privileges like the journalists in the print media.
The IJU ,therefore, demands that a Media Commission be constituted under the chairmanship of sitting Supreme Court Judge to examine all the above aspects and make suitable recommendations to ensure a free and responsible press.
VI- On non-implementation of Manisana Singh Wage Award
The Indian Journalists Unions (IJU) Chennai Plenary Session takes a serious view of the non-implementation of Manisana Singh Wage Awards by newspaper establishments. The recommendations of the Wage Board were notified in July 2000, it is deeply regretted that nearly three years have gone by and Central and State Governments have failed to ensure the implementation of the Wage Board Awards. IJU demands immediate implementation of the statutory awards by the erring newspaper establishments.
VII - On FDI in print media
The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) Chennai Plenary Session strongly protests against the Union Cabinets decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in the print media. The arbitrary decision will not only compromise the country's sovereignty but will affect the vibrant growth of democracy, which is already under pressure from the west especially the MNCs. The policy of keeping the foreign print media out was a conscious decision taken way back in 1955 under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, which was endorsed by Rajiv Gandhi and Narsimha Rao's government. The NDA government's decision to overturn this policy smacks off authoritarianism and an unseemly hurry to kowtow before foreign, particularly US interests. The arguments that the 26% limit on foreign equity and that the condition that editorial control must remain in Indian hands will be enough to safe guard and serve the national interests is not convincing, prima facie. Since we know that the corporate culture in this country allows the promoters to control their companies even with 7-10% equity holding? IJU, therefore, protest this move of NDA government and urges the NDA Government to reconsider its decision.
VIII - On Attack and Killing of Journalists in the North East
The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) Chennai Plenary Session expresses deep concern at the continuing attack and killing of journalists in the troubled-torn North Eastern region, in general, and Assam in particular. Unidentified assailants killed Parag Kumar Das, Executive Editor of Asomiya Pratidin (Assamese Daily) in 1996. Although a CBI enquiry was ordered, the state government failed to nab the killers even after 6 years. Assam has lost many brave journalists at the hands of militants and other assailants during the past decade. These include, Kamala Saikiya of Shiv Sagar, who was brutally killed by militants in 1991, Nurul Haq, Executive Editor Swatantra Awaz (Nagaon based daily) in 1998, Manik Deori of Karbi Anglong district in 1996, Deepak Swargiary of Goryswar in 1997, Ratebswar Dena Sarma, a septuagenarian journalist of Barpeta district in 1999, Deenashwar Bhramha, a local correspondent of Dhubri in March 2003, Alforid Sazad and Jiten Chutia (Shivsagar district) in 1999. Ankur Barbara of Gorhet remains untraced since 1998 from Kolkata. Another journalist from Kokrajhar district, Girija Das who was secretary of Gosaigaon Press Club has also been missing since August 2002. Many working journalists like Pavitra Das (Guwahati), Bhaskar Jyoti Das (reporter of Aji), Pervejur Rehman (A Dhubri based local correspondent) had to face physical and mental torture by the local police.
In Manipur, many scribes including three editors of local newspapers were killed by militants. In Meghalaya also, journalists and newspapers have faced attacks by militant outfits and government forces. In Tripura, Asit Ghosh, correspondent of a local newspaper was assaulted by miscreants, after the last assembly elections. The IJU Plenary Session demands that the state governments ensure safety and security of journalists in the North Eastern region of the Country.
IX - On Dainik Basumati
The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) Chennai Plenary Session noted with concern the suspension of publication of both the Kolkata and Siliguri editions of the Dainik Basumati, the oldest Bengali daily which is at present run by the West Bengal Government. IJU demands that the State Government immediately resume the publication from both the centres, Kolkata and Siliguri.
X - On Amrit Bazar Patrika and Jugantar
The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) Chennai Plenary Session demands that a tripartite meeting be held immediately to break the deadlock on Amrit Bazar Patrika - Jugantar impasse. The legal dues of the employees of the illegally closed these newspapers be released and paid without any further loss of time and both the newspapers should resume publication soon.
In another resolution, IJU demands that Government must support small newspapers.