New Delhi/Atulya Loktantra : The Union Labour Minister Shri Santosh Gangwar today assured a high-level delegation of working journalists that their rights and interest would be protected in the new Labour Codes. “The benefits granted in the Working Journalists Act, 1955 will be protected. Additionally, more benefits will be ensured to the journalists in new Labour Codes. Also, the benefits of the journalists working in the electronic media and web portals will be protected,” the Minister told a delegation of the working journalists that comprised of the leaders of Delhi Journalists Association, the National Union of Journalists (India) and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh affiliated Working Journalists of India.
Prominent among the journalists who comprised of the delegation were DJA general secretary Dr Pramod Kumar, Executive Member Shri Umesh Chaturvedi, Executive Members of the NUJ(I) Shri Hemant Vishnoi and Sushri Sarjana Sharma, president, vice president and general secretary of the Working Journalists of India Shri Anup Chaudhary (National President ) Sanjay Upadhyaya & Shri Narendra Bhandari, respectively, and senior journalist & former Director General of Indian Institute of Mass Communication Shri KG Suresh. North Zone organising secretary of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh Shri Pawan Kumar also joined the delegation.
Senior journalist Shri KG Suresh briefed the Union Labour Minister of the issues of the working journalists arising out of the government’s proposal to merge Working Journalists and Other Newspapers Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provision Act, 1955 and the Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958 in the new Labour Codes. “We feel that the job security benefits and welfare provisions enshrined in the earlier legislations pertaining to the working journalists should specifically be included in the New Labour Code to preserve and protect the independence of the media,” the journalists said in the memorandum presented to the Labour Minister Shri Gangwar.
The media trade union representatives urged the Government of India to ensure that the media being the fourth estate of democracy, the interests and existing rights of working journalists are not compromised with. The government should also ensure that the provisions are complied with by the managements in letter and spirit even as steps are taken to strengthen the independent media houses. Contract employment, retrenchment, absence of gratuity, pension, regular working hours and medical facilities have become a way of life for media persons in the country, who are expected to be the custodians of constitutional rights. It is, therefore, imperative that provisions are made in the proposed labour code to ensure a dignified life for media persons so as to freely and fairly discharge their responsibility to the society and the nation, the memorandum said.
“We appeal to the Government of India to protect the existing privileges and rectification of the shortcomings, if any. The meeting was also of the view that in light of the massive change in the national media scenario since the last Press Commission, the legal framework for media needs to be revisited.
The Second Press Commission report came before the advent of private TV and radio channels at a time when there was no internet nor online media and its recent most forceful and highly interactive form the social media. The social media has rightly been described as the most democratic media by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. We, therefore, request the government to set up a Media Commission to lay down the legal framework for this age of new media,” the memorandum said.
The memorandum further said that the provisions of retrenchment notice pay as a minimum of six months for all categories of journalists, applicability of EPF Act, eligibility of gratuity to three years of service, maximum six hours working hours, broad definition of wages and the system of tripartite wage boards in the existing law related to working journalists etc. should be retained as such in the new Codes. At the same time, provisions such as ESI, higher penalty for non-implementation and inclusion of new categories of jobs in the media sector such as electronic and digital, should be incorporated in the new Labour Codes. Also, the abovementioned benefits should be extended to all the non-journalist employees of media organisations.