The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) held a day long meeting on Sunday, September 29, where they resolved to continue their fight against the new labour codes and other labour laws. Attacking the labour codes, the press release signed by SK Pande, President, NAJ and N Kondaiah, Secretary General, NAJ states that the labour codes “smack of being employers codes, which are designed to kill the Working Journalists Act and all security of service.”
The release condemns the arbitrary lumping of the Working Journalists Acts—specifically designed for the profession of journalism and its special needs and working conditions—with the requirements and working conditions of other workers. Not just that, the release further adds that the new labour codes don’t meet the long standing demands of journalists, including an end to the contract system of employment, a permanent age fixation machinery, a special law for the protection of journalists, provision of adequate pensions, accident insurance and formalisation of a fair remuneration system for freelancers and mofussil correspondents.
The NAJ has put forth the demand to set up a proper Media Council of the entire media rather than just a Press Council after consultation with all stakeholders. It also demanded an autonomous Media Commission but broadly in the lines of the first and second Press Commission, almost five decades old.
Demanding the scrapping of the Occupational Safety and Health Code, the NAJ has resolved to undertake joint actions with central trade unions through a phased struggle to protect their rights and to work on a minimum programme with other professional journalists’ bodies, according to the release.
Declaring a two-pronged approach, the NAJ stated that “the professional side would work on issues such as increasing attacks on the freedom of the press and on journalists and the other on issues affecting the dignity of the profession like wages working hours and attempts to reduce journalism to official drum beating of the forces of statusquo.”
Keeping in view the growing climate of fear and intimidation against journalists, along with death threats and vicious targeted trolling on social media, the NAJ has demanded the enactment of a special law to protect journalists. Expressing grave concerns over the plight of journalists in Kashmir—which has been under a lockdown and internet ban for over 50 days—the NAJ has also demanded the immediate lifting of the ban.
The press release also states that there is an increasing attempt by corporate owners to misuse media to promote their business and political interests. Therefore, the alliance appealed to the government “to stop obsessively monitoring the news media and stop trying to influence, arm twist and ‘persuade’ journalists and news establishments to toe the official line.”
The meeting also criticised the growing trolling, especially against women journalists who face personal attacks, sexual allegations and abuses. The press release states that the NAJ regrets that there is poor representation of the issues concerning the marginalised sections of the society like minorities, dalits and tribals and of their living conditions in the media, and requested to focus more on these deprived sections.