New Delhi: The National Alliance of Journalists NAJ), an umbrella body of journalists organisations, has submitted a memorandum to all political parties and their MPs, calling upon them to step in and ‘save’ journalists from growing physical attacks, abysmal working conditions and a hire & fire atmosphere prevailing across the media today.
As the Budget session of Parliament nears its end, the memo has highlighted the working conditions in the print, digital and in electronic media, where workers have no protection.
“Cross-media holdings, company mergers, short-term contracts, voucher payments, an increasing army of freelancers and moffusil correspondents, mostly surviving on a pittance as wages, the stranglehold of a national and international monopoly press, and virtual killing of surviving medium sized papers and journals multiply our woes along with the menace of contract employment even against permanent posts,” the memo says.
The alliance, which includes the Delhi Union of Journalists to appeal to all political parties and their MPs to put pressure on the government to set up a new wage board, that’s “long overdue.” The last wage board was set up in 2007, it added,
The NAJ also demanded the Working Journalists Act be made applicable to electronic and digital media, too, and early steps to “end the wave of hire and fire which has caught on there also.”
Drawing attention to various organisations that have still not paid the previous arrears, the NAJ said non-implementation of the previous wage board should be made a cognizable offence and pending cases should be resolved as per the deadline set by the Supreme Court.
The alliance also sought adequate remuneration for journalists working as stringers in rural areas, at district and village level, as also a national pension scheme for all journalists and press workers on the lines of such a scheme being implemented by the Kerala government.
“We are of the view that an autonomous National Media Commission be instituted to review, research and study the state of the entire media today and make appropriate time-bound recommendations to foster democracy and free speech as well as the independence of journalists by ensuring decent wages and working conditions,” said the memo.
It also called for replacing the “outdated” Press Council with a National Medai Council that includes senior journalists, media experts, media critics, and trade unions as well as legal experts and representatives of industry and government.
Expressing shock over the Central government’s proposal to repeal the Working Journalists Act, by “quietly including it in an innocuous sounding Labour Code on Occupational Health and Safety”, the NAJ alleged that the entire design of the Labour Code was formulated at the “behest of industry” for “ease of doing business” ignoring the concerns of employees.