Skip to main content

Govt told to punish media owners firing journalists, applying salary cut, violating law

Counerview Desk
The Mumbai Press Club has protested against recent firings, closures and salary cuts of media employees in the wake of the current lockdown, stating this is being done at a time when they are going through “challenging times and braving the corona virus to go onto the field, and risking their lives to keep operations going.”
In a statement, it said, “These firings and closure of departments are both contrary to the due process of law, as well as violation of the advisories put out by the Central government”, recalling the Union ministry of Labour and Employment circular dated March 20 “advising both public and private employers not to terminate employees or reduce wages”, something that was repeated by the Prime Minister in his address to the nation on April 14.
The statement regretted, ironically, this is being done when media companies have been appealing to government for aid. Thus, the Indian Newspaper Society has written to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on April 9 seeking waiver of 5 percent customs duty on newsprint, two-year tax holiday for newspaper establishments, increase in advertisement rates.

Text:

The Mumbai Press Club is dismayed and shocked at the announcement of several media houses shutting operations, firing staff and announcing mid-stream and unilateral cuts in salaries of journalists and other employees.
Almost acting on cue, several of these media groups, citing restricted business operations and falling revenue, have put hundreds of journalists and other employees on the streets in the middle of the curfew period.
At a time when media employees are going through challenging times and braving the corona virus to go onto the field, and risking their lives to keep operations going, they have been ‘rewarded’ for their loyalty by the handing out of pink slips. These firings and closure of departments are both contrary to the due process of law, as well as violation of the advisories put out by the central government.
It may be recalled that the Union ministry of Labour and Employment had issued a circular on  March 20, 2020 advising both public and private employers not to terminate employees or reduce wages. In his address to the nation on 14 April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi again reiterated in his ‘Appeal No.6’ to businessmen and companies not to terminate their employees at the time of crisis.
It is in flagrant violation of the government’s directions that media houses have gone ahead and sacked personnel and closed operations. These actions are also in breach of the law which requires government permission for closure and notice pay and other compensation under Sections 25 (O) and (F) as well as other provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act before terminating employees.
There is no doubt that business operations during the current lockdown are facing a crisis. However, it is expected that these companies should stand by their employees in this time of extreme crisis; and review their operations only when the situation eases.
It is also not the case that all the media companies are in bad shape. The bigger groups like the Bennett, Coleman & Company (BCCL) or the Times Group, HT Media, the Bhaskar and Jagran Groups and ABP Ltd are profitable and doing well. The few months of losses cannot be held against their employees, especially when for years these are the very journos and employees who have slaved for them to turn in a profit.
Losses during corona crisis cannot be held against journalists when for years they have slaved for them to turn in a profit
It has also come to our notice that despite this flouting of the law and killing of jobs by the media companies, they have on the other hand been appealing to government for aid. The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has written to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on April 9 seeking waiver of 5 percent customs duty on newsprint, two-year tax holiday for newspaper establishments, 50 percent increase in advertisement rate of Bureau of Outreach and Communication and a 100 percent increase in budget spend for the print media.
Some of the closures and job losses in recent days that has been documented are as follows:
  • Hamara Mahanagar shuts operations on March 18 citing poor business viability.
  • Outlook and Forbes India suspend print operations on March 30 and 27, 2020, respectively. 
  • 15 journalists of the Sakal Group are asked to resign on March 31.
  • Indian Express and Business Standard announce salary cuts ranging from 30 to 50 percent. 
  • India Ahead News announces salary cuts on April 4, 2020. 
  • A section of journalists at The Quint are asked to go on leave without pay, others are asked to take a salary cut on 9th and 10th April. 
  • News Nation lays off its entire English digital team of 15 journalists and Star of Mysore suspends print operations on 12 April. 
  • Nai Duniya owned by Dainik Jagran suspends print operations on April 13. 
  • Some of the big groups including Times Group, HT Media, Network18 Group and India Today Group have cutback or abolished some emoluments and are planning the shutdown of some departments and supplements and retrenching staff to save revenue. If these go through, huge job losses are on the cards. 
In these circumstances, our urgent appeal is:
  1. Media groups and employers agree to a moratorium on firings, and closure of departments during the current challenging period of the Coronavirus shutdown.
  2. The Union Ministries of Labour and Information & Broadcasting urgently intervene to stop these illegal practices of closures and sackings which are contrary to the policy defined by Prime Minister Modi. 
  3. The Union government blacklist all media groups that have carried out illegal terminations of employees and closures, and bar them from benefiting in any way from the government’s rescue package /tax waiver schemes, as well exclude these companies from being recipients of government advertising.

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Contempt of court? UP CM taking 'personal vendetta' against Dr Kafeel Khan: Activists

Counterview Desk
Demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government immediately release well-known paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, a group of more than 100 academicians, activists, researchers, doctors and lawyers have said in an open letter that he is being “targeted at the behest of the chief minister”, wondering, “When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the National Security Act (NSA)?”

A locked up offer? Govt of India 'not serious' in involving NGOs: IIM-A survey

By Rajiv Shah
Was the Government of India serious when it asked 92,000 civil society organizations (CSOs) in early April to “assist” state governments and district administrations in taking care of food, shelter and other needs of migrant workers, known to have been affected by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’ sudden 21-day lockdown in order to “combat” the spread of Covid-19 virus, announced on March 24?

Will Govt of India, ICMR end 'perverse' practice of extracting profits from ill-health?

By Asmita Verma, Surabhi Agarwal, Bobby Ramakant*
The Epidemics Act, 1897 gives the central and state governments authority to impose any regulations which may be necessary to contain the outbreak of a disease. Some state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh have already used this power to bring private healthcare facilities in their state under government control.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

'Violation' of migrant workers' human rights: Legal notice to IIM-A director, govt babus

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the police action against protesting migrant workers off the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on May 18, senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik, in a legal notice to the IIM-A director "on their behalf" has said that the workers had only been seeking to to go back to their home states, Jharkhand and West Bengal, for the last more than 20 days because they were not paid their “earned wages because of the lockdown.”

Sitharaman's offer for rural jobs to 'create' just 3 crore rural jobs. Demand: 12 crore jobs

By Amarjeet Kaur*
The final package, the fifth one in a row, announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 17 was a fiasco. Sitharaman during her press conference for two hours and six minutes spent more than an hour detailing the policy actions of her government’s last six years’ rule, repeating the already provided proposals during the two budgets after coming to power for the second time, even as reiterating her briefings on the four earlier packages she had announced over the previous four days.