National Executive Committee meeting
Tirupati,Andhra Pradesh August 29, 2002
I - On allowing FDI in print media
This meeting of the National Executive Committee of the IJU, held at Tirupati on August 29, 2002, lodges its strong protest against the Union Cabinet’s decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in the print media. This will not only compromise India’s national sovereignty but also affect seriously the development of democracy in the country, which has already been under strong pressure from Western interests, particularly MNCs. That the time-tested policy of keeping the print media wholly Indian, adopted first by the Union Cabinet under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1955 and endorsed later by the Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao regimes, should be overturned by a coalition government led by the minority BJP smacks of authoritarianism and an unseemly hurry to kowtow before foreign, particularly US, interests.
What is particularly shocking is that the present Government has been dismissive not only of longstanding policies but also of all democratic and professional institutions and has failed to appreciate, nay even consider, that even such eminent institutions as all Press Commissions as well as the Press Council have repeatedly frowned upon attempts to allow foreign control of the print media and stood for a wholly Indian Press.
The argument that the 26 per cent limit on foreign equity and the condition that editorial control must remain in Indian hands will be enough to safeguard and serve the national interests is unconvincing, prima facie. For, who does not know that the corporate culture as obtaining in this country allows the promoters to control their companies even with seven to 10 per cent equity holding. A foreign investor holding 26 per cent equity, therefore, will be in an unassailable position to not only fully control the media company concerned but also appoint pliant Indian editors who will faithfully communicate their master’s voice and serve their interests.
Similarly, the argument that the move will strengthen Indian democracy is ill-conceived because even such developed democracies as the US do not al all allow foreign ownership or control of their print media. The IJU wonders how a poor developing democracy like India that is facing all the problems of a nation-in-making can afford a luxury that even developed countries would rather do without.
This meeting, therefore, calls upon the Government to take cognisance of the widespread opposition to the move from all sections of democratic opinion in the country, particularly the Press and media organisations, and review its decision to allow FDI in an industry that plays a vital and crucial role in opinion-making. For, what the nation requires is the furthering strengthening of the national content and character in the print media instead of measures to weaken it.
This meeting also calls upon all sections of democratic opinion in the country to join hands and put up a joint struggle for force a withdrawal of the Cabinet decision. The IJU, on its part, will leave no stone unturned to build up such a joint struggle and play an active role in fighting out this dangerous move.
II – On harassment and intimidation of mediapersons
Having considered complaints and reports of the harassment and intimidation of mediapersons in not only the various States but also at the national Capital, this meeting of the National Executive Committee of the IJU, held at Tirupati on August 29, 2002, takes a serious view of the increasing tendency among the ruling establishment to harass and intimidate mediapersons who dare to lay bare the misdeeds and corrupt practices of the powers that be.
The way tehelka.com and the journalists working with it have been at the receiving end of all kinds of repressive actions for no less than a year now shows clearly the kinds of hazards mediapersons face in making bold to expose the corruption rampant in the country’s high society and ruling class.
The way the Government has ignored repeated protests by media organisations, including the IJU, against this harassment campaign only shows how insensitive this class has become. That it does not hesitate to use even TADA against accredited correspondents at the drop of a hat is even more serious. This meeting, therefore, calls upon the Union and State Governments to cry a halt to such harassment and intimidation of mediapersons. It also calls upon all media organisations to unitedly fight, in cooperation with other democratic forces, against this Emergency-like threat to the freedom of the Press and mediapersons. The IJU is determined to carry on the struggle against such tendencies and do everything it can to defend the freedom of the Press against such onslaughts.
III – On government’s bid to control/ subvert media institutions
This meeting of the IJU’s National Executive Committee, held at Tirupati on August 29, takes a serious view of the present Union Government’s attempts to interfere with, control and, thus, subvert almost all autonomous democratic and professional institutions. In this context, it strongly condemns this Government’s latest attack on the autonomy and independence of the vital media institution of the Central Press Accreditation Committee (CPAC) by packing it with as many as seven “government nominees”, all of whom have no representative character whatsoever and share the common qualification of proximity to the Sangh parivar. That the Government did this in utter violation of the rules framed by itself a couple of years ago makes it even worse; for, these rules have no provision for the inclusion of any unrepresentative elements in the CPAC. That it has failed to review its decision and reconstitute the CPAC as per rules in spite of strong demands from as many as five media organisations, including the IJU, shows that there is more to it than meets the eye and that this act is part of a larger design to pack all media institutions with the Government’s pliant “yes persons”. It is unfortunate that the Government did not draw the right lessons from the failure of its earlier efforts to subvert the functioning of the Press Council of India that was strongly and successfully resisted by the IJU. The profession should be ready to face more such efforts in the near future.
The IJU is determined to fight all such efforts to interfere with the freedom of the Press by subverting such vital professional institutions as the CPAC and the Press Council of India and calls upon all professional organisations to adopt a common strategy in defence of Press freedom. This meeting authorises the IJU central leadership to make all efforts to bring together various media organisations in order to evolve such a common strategy.