NAJ, DUJ blasts Union Govt Bill(s) on Media

Stress Necessity of Tripartite Autonomous Media Commission to Save Journalism

The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ) and the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) in a joint statement today expressed their deep distress at the way Bills affecting the media and personal liberties have been steamrolled through Parliament without proper debate.

The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 includes surveillance clauses, which means surveillance of citizens including journalists and their sources. The lightning speed with which the bill was passed this week, casts severe doubts on whether the government is seeking to widen censorship powers.

The statements say that both bodies of journalists are equally concerned at certain clauses in the Press and Registration of Periodicals Bill, 2023 which gives enforcement authorities, over and above the Registrar, which adds draconian new provisions which are aimed at censorship of news media.

Further, they point out that these Bills coming soon after amendments to the IT Rules, 2021 which enable government departments to demand that social media companies take down posts that they object to, are ominous.

Other moves to enforce secrecy and encroach on citizens ‘rights are the recent amendments to the Right to Information Act that further restrict access to information from government departments, reducing the right to information act to a farce.

The organisations also note of the fact that the rights and privileges of journalists and freedom of association had been targeted in recent years not only through dubious labour codes but the way numerous favourable court judgements on the Majithia Wage board for journalists and co-workers are being reduced to nothingness through constant appeals by select newspaper barons. It is a fact that many cases are pending or shuttling between various courts and appeals while journalists and co-workers are starving and in some cases have also died. Fast track courts are indeed needed.

The signatories to the joint statement include  S.K.Pande, President NAJ, Sujata Madhok, President DUJ, N.Kondaiah, Secretary General NAJ, G.Anjaneyulu, General Secretary APWJF and Jigeesh A.M., General Secretary DUJ also stressed their continued demand for a Media Council of India to replace the out dated  Press Council of India for the entire wide spectrum media, a suggestion  that has been backed both by the BJP and the Congress governments in the past.

Such a council should have representatives from the entire Media- as it exists today including representatives from all including unions and associations, and the growing independent media networks. It should concentrate on questions of ethical reporting, dangerous patterns of communalism, spreading of fake news and connected matters, taking in view current realities. Such a media body is all the more necessary to prevent draconian censorship moves by governments both at the centre and some states.

They endorsed the views of the Press Club of India, the IWPC and the DUJ yesterday against the continued witch hunting of the news portal Newsclick, which they opined was specializing in a wide variety of issues affecting the common people and was being targeted, just because it was critical of the government. It seems the ghost of McCarthyism is being resurrected in India, they added. 


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