Labour codes threat to Press freedom | Death knell for independent media: IJU 

NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD, July 24: Indian Journalists Union (IJU) gave a clarion call on Wednesday to working journalists including editors to raise their voices against nefarious designs of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Govt to cut into the roots of country’s Press freedom by repealing two legislations that protect the unique character of the profession of journalism.

The GoI, by introducing in Lok Sabha on Tuesday, two Labour Code Bills – one on working conditions and the other on wages,proposed to repeal Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1955, and Working Journalist (Fixation of rates of wages) Act, 1958 along with 11 other labour laws.

IJU president-cum-Press Council of India member Amar Devulapalli and Secretary General and IFJ vice president Sabina Inderjit, in a joint statement on Wednesday, lamented that the GoI has sought to equate ‘fourth estate’ with any other industry, but worse has brazenly favoured the corporate media barons who have persistently been demanding to abolish Wage Board and do away with the Working Journalists Act. The media houses time and again have challenged the recommendations of the wage boards for the newspaper industry and the constitutional validity of Working Journalists Act in Supreme Court unsuccessfully, the IJU said.

“The GoI forgets that the basic foundation of Working Journalists Act was laid by the Press Commission in 1954 when it put into perspective the nature of the journalists’ job saying “his work cannot be measured as in other industries” and that “insecurity of tenure is peculiar to this profession ….unemployment would not necessarily have that result in other professions,” they recalled.

“A free and independent Press is paramount to any democratic society and any attempts to undermine functioning of ‘fourth estate’ must be fought tooth and nail as it would have adverse affect on the democratic polity. The GoI is misleading the country, when it claims that it has consulted all stakeholders, for it has never discussed the proposed changes with the journalist trade unions in the country,” the IJU leaders said.

The IJU urged MPs, both opposition and ruling party, to ensure that Labour Code Bills are referred to concerned Parliamentary Standing Committee or a Joint Select Committee so that the provisions of the proposed bills are scrutinized minutely. At the same time, the IJU has cautioned the journalist fraternity across the country that it does not protest and garner support against the GoI’s surreptitious move; it would be a death knell for independent media and rights of journalists.

The IJU voices percolate down to this remote state as Arunachal Pradesh Union of Journalists with Amar Sangno as its president is affiliated to this national body.

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