Union Minister Reacts Positively to IJU Demand for Media Commission
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai said the issue of Media Commission requires a wide range of discussion and assured the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) that he would facilitate such discussions between the stake holders and the government. He was addressing the concluding session of the NEC meeting at Patna on 27 August 2023. The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the IJU which met at Patna on 26-27 August 2023 under the chairmanship of the President K. Sreenivas Reddy unanimously passed a resolution demanding the government to constitute Media Commission to study various aspects relating to the media.
Responding to the demand the Union Minister assured the IJU that apart from taking the issue to the notice of the government he would be ready to hold discussions in this regard. In the resolution the IJU reminded the Union government that it was 70 years since the last Press Commission worked and during this long period media scenario in the country underwent a sea change with the advent of, first, electronic media; second, digital media. This changed structure poses lots of challenges which demand answers; the IJU said and urged the government to immediately constitute the Media Commission.
The Union Minister also assured that sedition law would not be misused against journalists in the country. He pointed out that only those working against interest of the nation would attract punishment under provisions of sedition law and said such persons are miniscule in number. The Minister hastened to add that a genuine journalist could never indulge in anti national activities. Journalists should give top priority to their profession, the Minister said and added that at the same time national interest should be kept above all.
The Minister also said that he was opposed to any state government or for that matter, any government which booked a genuine journalist under the sedition law as it would be interfering with the very objective of journalism. A government should respect the professional integrity of a journalist, he maintained. The media has the power to punish a wrongdoer in people’s court even before it is done under provision of law, he noted. Srinivas Reddy raised concern over the fact that the special acts governing the working and wage revision of working journalists had been scrapped.
In another resolution the IJU demanded the Union government to enact a special law for the safety of journalists as attacks against them are on the rise and the fraternity has been facing many security issues. The NEC decided to hold a national seminar of women journalists at Hyderabad in the month of October 2023. Inaugurating the NEC meeting, Chairman of Bihar Legislative Council Devesh Chandra Thakur said democracy in the country is deep rooted and it could never be wiped out. Clouds might hover over democracy for some time but its survival could never be under threat, he said. Thakur said media is a strong fourth pillar of democracy which may face troubles for a short period but there cannot be a major threat to its independence. Media was in trouble when emergency was imposed by the then Congress regime at the Centre in mid seventies, he recalled. Power of democracy and strength of media helped in emerging out of the difficult phase, he noted. Bihar Labour Minister Surendra Ram while addressing the NEC meeting said that media was passing through a difficult phase. Attempts were being made to gag the voice of press, he pointed out. Ram said that big corporate houses were now purchasing media houses, in an attempt to control them. In the recent past, few select corporate houses favoured by the government had purchased some media houses resulting in compromising their impartiality, he added. Impartiality of media was of utmost importance for a healthy democracy in the country, he felt. The Minister said that there was an urgent need for media to show their courage and determination as they had done during British.
The Minister said that democracy was the best form of governance which provided equal opportunities to all to contribute to the nation building. It was beauty of the democracy which enabled him to rise from an ordinary labourer to the level of Labour Minister of Bihar government, he added. He recalled how he worked as labourer during the initial phase of his life in the national capital. Leader of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) Shakeel Ahmad Khan while addressing the meeting said it is a matter of serious concern that news is being sold like commodities. The trend of marketing the news by sensationalizing also affected its credibility, he lamented. He said that in present era of Information Technology (IT), no news could be suppressed or hushed up. It would emerge in one form or other, he noted. CPI MLA Suryakant Paswan and CPI(ML) MLA Sanjeev Saurabh also expressed their views on the occasion. Both the leaders emphasised that freedom of press has to be ensured for the survival of healthy democracy in the country.
The NEC meeting deliberated and passed several resolutions on a number of issues including one on attacks on journalists and media houses in Manipur. A special resolution was passed to pay rich tributes to Ambati Anjaneyulu, steering committee member of IJU who passed away recently. The meeting recalled his services in strengthening IJU and Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ), his home union.
IJU President K Srinivas Reddy said that media in the country was passing through a tough phase. He exhorted the journalists to work unitedly to face the challenges as governments were indifferent towards their concerns. The meeting held detailed discussions on various subjects after Secretary General Balwinder Singh Jammu presented his report. Former President of IJU S N Sinha expressed his deep concern over increasing attacks on journalists and misuse of sedition law against them. NEC members, Presidents and General Secretaries of 18 state unions attended the meeting. President of Bihar Working Journalists Union (BWJU) Nivedita Jha, General Secretary Kamal Kant Sahay welcomed the guests and also expressed their views on the occasion.