Skip to main content

Owner-created climate of fear in Indian media has led to an unchecked proliferation of paid news

Counterview Desk
A note on newspaper employees' unions' protest in Mumbai on February 13 against "sacking" of working journalists:
More than 150 journalists and non-journalist employees of several newspapers and a news agency held an hour-long spirited demonstration before the Hindustan Times (HT) office in the country's commercial capital Mumbai raising slogans against the mass termination of media employees.
Apart from raising slogans, Media employees also waved placards that said 'Journalists-Media Workers unity Zindabad', 'Media barons: Honour SC order and Implement Majithia wage board' and 'Dont shoot the Messenger, Don't sack the Messenger'.
The demonstration in front of HT office in India Bulls Towers, Senapati Bapat Marg, in Central Mumbai was part of a campaign to 'Fight undeclared Emergency in the Media', and oppose sacking of media employees, organised by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) to fight for the Implementation of the Majithia Wage Board for newspaper and news agency employees.
The sacking of over 1000 media employees by Hindustan Times and Anand Bazaar Patrika (ABP) group of Publications in the last few weeks has already shocked and angered media workers all over the country. More so, in the backdrop of the failure of media managements to implement the wage award, the sackings have been totally illegal as well as in breach of the Supreme Court's order on the implementation of the wage board award.
So much so, scores of newspaper employees have been pushed into an abyss of unemployment and poverty overnight that has unleashed a terrifying environment of fear in the media industry. The current situation is unprecedented in the history of independent India, with newspaper managements determined to brazenly trample laws enacted for the newspaper industry and Supreme Court Orders pertaining to implementation of the Majithia Wage Board Award.
Simply put, the newspaper managements, under the banner of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), have declared war on their employees: this is an undeclared emergency in the media.
The sudden closures and terminations, without any warning or provocation, have already resulted in the tragic and untimely death of Arvind Sharma, a senior staffer of Hindustan Times -- soon after his illegal termination by the company.
Later, a memorandum was submitted to the Hindustan Times Ms Chairperson Shobana Bhartia condemning the harassment and coercive action taking against employees after the closure of six editions of the newspaper. The following is an extract from the memorandum submitted to Ms Bhartia:
1. Your act has violated numerous provisions of the law, including Sec 16A of the Working Journalists Act. You are well aware that a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by the then Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam had on Feb 7, 2014 (ABP Pvt Ltd and Onr vs Union of India and Othrs), upheld the Constitutional validity of the Working Journalists Act, 1955, and the amendment Act, 1974, and rejected the contention of improper constitution of the Wage Boards, irregularity in the procedure adopted by the Majithia Wage Board and that Majithia Wage Boards had overlooked the relevant aspects and considered extraneous factors while drafting the recommendations.
2. Your establishment has collected, under Sec 20J, undertakings from your employees, both journalist and non-journalist newspaper employees, on a mass scale, that they do not want the Wage Board. In the Supreme Court, a contempt petition is pending against your establishment to determine whether these are obtained by force or really voluntary? Which sensible journalist will voluntarily accept a lower wage?
3. It is clear that you have decided to close down these editions in other to avoid the implementation of the Supreme Court order and the Majithia Wage Board award.
4. Your action led to untold misery and disrupted the lives of scores of employees, besides leading to the tragic and untimely death of a senior staffer of Hindustan Times -- soon after his illegal termination by the company. Your callousness and cynical apathy only shows how much you are only concerned with the maximisation of profits.
5. We do not accept your excuse that demonetisation has forced you to take this step because, although it is only a three month old process, you have evaded the process of implementation for more than three years.
The JAC demanded the restoration of editions with reinstatement of all employees and implement the Majithia Wage Board Award in toto, thereby maintaining the spirit and letter of the Supreme Court verdict in this regard.
The JAC also maintains that this 'current situation of undeclared emergency' in the media is a cause of concern for the public at large. How can newspaper employees who are routinely terrorized by their employers and denied basic rights be expected to fight for the larger rights of society? How can the watch-dogs of society function when they are 'defanged' by their employers, the so-called guardians of freedom of speech and expression?
This owner-created climate of fear in the media has also led to the unchecked proliferation of paid news as well as fake news. And this is a cause of concern for all citizens.

Comments

TRENDING

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Church in India 'seems to have lost' moral compass of unequivocal support to the poor

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
In 2017, Pope Francis dedicated a special day, to be observed by the Universal Church, every year, as the ‘World Day of the Poor’. This year it will be observed on November 17 on the theme ‘The hope of the poor shall not perish for ever’; in a message for the day Pope Francis says:

There may have been Buddhist stupa at Babri site during Gupta period: Archeologist

By Rajiv Shah
A top-notch archeologist, Prof Supriya Varma, who served as an observer during the excavation of the Babri Masjid site in early 2000s along with another archeologist, Jaya Menon, has controversially stated that not only was there "no temple under the Babri Masjid”, if one goes “beyond” the 12th century to 4th to 6th century, i.e. the Gupta period, “there seems to be a Buddhist stupa.”

VHP doesn't represent all Hindus, Sunni Waqf Board all Muslims: NAPM on SC ruling

Counterview Desk
India's top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), even as describing the Supreme Court's Ayodhya judgement unjust, has said, it is an "assault on the secular fabric of the Constitution". In a statement signed by top social workers and activists, NAPM said, "The judgement conveys an impression to Muslims that, despite being equal citizens of the country, their rights are not equal before the law."

'First time' since 1970s poverty up 10%, consumer spending down 4%: GoI survey

By Our Representative
In what may prove to be a major embarrassment for the Government of India (GoI), a new official survey, carried out in 207-18, has reportedly said that average consumer spending in India fell by more than 4% the previous six years "primarily driven by slackening rural demand." The survey, "Key Indicators: Household Consumer Expenditure in India”, carried out by the National Statistical Office (NSO), says that money spent per person in a month fell by 3.7% from Rs 1,501 in 2011-12 to Rs 1,446 in 2017-18.

As fear 'grips' right liberals, Arvind Panagariya, too, would be declared anti-national?

By Rajiv Shah
It is surely well-known by now that India's top people in the power-that-be have been castigating all those who disagree with them as "anti-nationals". Nothing unusual. If till yesterday only "secular liberals", and "left-liberals" were declared anti-national, facts, however, appear to have begun surfacing that, now, guns are being trained against those who could be qualified as right liberals, too. Let me be specific.

National award winning film 'Hellaro' co-produced by three chartered accountants

By Our Representative
“Hellaro”, a Gujarati feature film produced by Saarthi Productions in association with Harfanmaula Films (Ahmedabad) was declared as the Best Feature Film at the National Film Awards which was conferred by the Government of India. The film also won the Special Jury Award for the Best Actress to all the 13 actresses of the film.
Ashish Patel produced the movie, which has been co-produced three co-producers, Aayush Patel, Prateek Gupta and Mit Jani, all of whom, interestingly, started their filmmaking journey after becoming Chartered Accountants in 2012.
“Hellaro” is directed by Abhishek Shah, who has been working in Gujarati theatre since the past 17 years as writer, director and actor and has received numerous awards for his plays. He has also worked as a casting director for 12 films.
“Hellaro” is a period drama based in Kutch and has been co-written by Abhishek Shah and Prateek Gupta. Gupta previously received the Best Debut Director Award, along with Mit Jan…