Sirsa, Haryana, 9-11 February 2007
I - On the state of the newspaper industry
This plenary session of the IJU, being held at Sirsa on February 9-11, 2007, views with deep anguish the failure of both the Union and State governments to help improve the working and service conditions of working journalists by just enforcing the laws of the land. Repeated appeals by our union to enforce the awards of the Manisana Singh Wage Boards have fallen on deaf ears. Such are the pathetic conditions that although the Union Government has decided to set up a new Wage Board, a large number of newspaper establishments in State after State have yet to implement the award of the previous Wage Board. Our appeals to set up tripartite committees to oversee the implementation of the award have been in vain. The provisions of the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) Act are being violated day in and day out. The concerned departments of State governments appear to be working in tandem with the employers to whitewash their acts of omission and commission, while the plight of poorly paid journalist and other employees is getting worse and worse.
A situation has, thus, been created where the working journalists have just about no job security and even permanent newspaper employees can be dismissed overnight, not only in the States but even in the national Capital. Almost the whole lot of regular working journalists and other newspaper employees of Hindustan Times were forced just a year and a half ago to either accept fresh employment on "contract" or get dismissed from service. As many as 362 employees were dismissed overnight on Gandhi Jayanti, but the Government failed to intervene despite a peaceful agitation by the Hindustan Times Employees Union, the IJU and other fraternal unions. Not only that. All the leaders of the HTEU were victimised unceremoniously but neither the Union nor the State Government intervened in their support. The employers, thus, have usurped the right to arbitrarily hire and fire the working journalists in spite, if not violation, of all the labour laws, including the Industrial Disputes Act.
As a result, managers have usurped the editorial control of many so-called national newspapers and the editors have to accept their diktat or leave. No wonder the editorial content, including the selection of news, is determined by the commercial interests of the industrial houses running the newspapers. Just as the electronic media are concerned more with their TRP ratings even if these improve by catering to the baser passions of the viewers, the print media, too, are losing their professional values to improve their circulation figures, and profits. The freedom of the Press, thus, is being held to ransom by the proprietorial interests of newspaper owners and is fast ceasing to champion the voice of the people.
It is just this kind of situation that the founders of the working journalists' movement had warned against soon after Independence when they had demanded the delinking of newspaper ownership from other industries. And no less a person than the first Prime Minister of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru, had warned against the usurpation of the right to freedom of the Press by the owners instead of journalists.
The situation, obviously, demands not only immediate correctives but a full-scale reform. The IJU, therefore, demands that a Media Commission be set up immediately to consider the state of the media - both print and electronic - and recommend ways to ensure the freedom of the media and control of the editors and journalists, and not the owners, over their news and views content. It also demands adequate amendments in the Working Journalists Act and other labour laws to abolish the contract system and make cognizable and punishable the violations of these laws.
Let there be
no illusion, however, that these demands will be met without a strong agitation
to press for these. We, therefore, call upon our State unions to build as
broadbased a front as possible with other labour unions and prepare for a
long struggle to press these demands.
II - On Wage Board
This plenary session of the Indian Journalists Union, being held at Sirsa on February 9-11, 2007, welcomes the Union Government's decision to set up the next Wage Board for working journalists and other newspaper employees. While looking forward to its constitution at the earliest, we shall call upon the Government to include the abolition of the contract system, too, in its terms of reference and to empower it to prescribe punishment for the non-implementation of its awards as notified by the Government.
therefore, urges the Government to constitute the Wage Board at the earliest,
include in it the genuine representatives of the working journalists without
ignoring the claims of the IJU, the largest and most representative union
of working journalists in the country, whose presence extends to 24 States.
The IJU would also urge the Government to give a time-bound mandate to the
Wage Board so that justice is not delayed.
III - On the Contract System
This plenary session of the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) reiterates its long-pending demand for the abolition of the contract system. The system, being employed with impunity by the employers to weaken the working journalists, reduce their control and influence over the news and views content of newspapers by depriving them of job security and, thus, usurp the freedom of the Press, violates the Working Journalists Act in letter and spirit. The system, in fact, robs the working journalists of their rights and privileges under the various labour laws, too.
The political leaders who declaim day in and day out against the loss of its missionary spirit and ethical values by the print media, and against its commercialization and sensationalisation of the news content need to appreciate that this state of affairs is a natural outcome of the enforcement of the contract system. The political elite must remember that the media are not only industries but also the "fourth estate" and that the working journalists are not only workmen but also the watchdogs of democracy and conscience-keepers of the nation. A threat to their job security, in fact, threatens not only their personal livelihood but also the freedom of the Press and the democratic system.
It is hightime the debate over the issue was not confined merely to the possession of the right to hire and fire by the employers but was extended to see its impact on the democratic life of the country, the state of its secular social fabric, its ethical norms and internal and external security.
IV Resolution on IJU - IFJ Relationship
The Plenary Session of the Indian Journalists Union in Sirsa, Haryana expresses its deep concern over the arbitrary functioning of the International Federation of Journalists in India. The IJU became members of this world organization in the anticipation of being equal partners in strengthening the journalists' trade union rights and in upholding the freedom of the Press. However, the IJU regrets that the IFJ has lately sought to play the big brother and is treating the IJU as its subordinate. This is unacceptable to the Indian Journalists Union, which is the largest journalists' Union in the country and which believes in transparency/openness and democratic functioning.
The IJU is greatly perturbed at the way the IFJ General Secretary handled the EU project on Europe and India: Building Path of Equality in Journalism; first offering it to the IJU in September 2003 and then unceremoniously and summarily withdrawing it. Without taking the IJU into confidence, the IFJ General Secretary negotiated with another Indian affiliate behind the back of the IJU and withdrew the project from the IJU. The IJU resolved to dissociate itself completely from the project, as it felt cheated and that it had not been treated honestly and fairly by the IFJ General Secretary, who has sought to impose his decisions on the IJU. Hence the IJU did not participate in a single activity associated with the project.
The IJU has also expressed its concern over the systematic marginalization and isolation of its elected representative on the world body by the IFJ in its counsels. Worse, the IFJ has started carrying out activities in India without even discussing or consulting its member Unions. It has been holding roundtable conferences in various parts of the country without any deliberations with the IJU. Such an arbitrary attitude is clearly not acceptable to us. The IJU cannot and shall not be taken for granted at any time. This Plenary session of the IJU therefore, would urge the IFJ to review its approach to the affiliates, and ensure that they are accepted and treated as partners, equal in every right.
session approves all actions taken in this regard by the leadership and the
NEC to protect the self respect of the organization. The session further resolved
that if the IFJ did not mend its attitude at this hour also, then the IJU
would have to reconsider its affiliation with the IFJ.
March 06, 2007