New Delhi: The workforce in every section of media is going through a severe crisis. Since the lockdown, the media owners have unleashed severely exploitative attacks on workers in this sector. More than a thousand journalists have lost their jobs, most of them have had to go without even the retrenchment benefits prescribed under the Working Journalists Act or the Industrial Disputes Act. Some analysts say that about 30 thousand more media persons may lose their jobs in the coming six months.Wage loss is also equally serious. There are media houses that have asked employees to go on compulsory leave without pay. Others have dictated pay cuts. The decrease in salary ranges from ten to fifty per cent.
The National Alliance of Journalists, Kerala Union of Working Journalists, Madras Union of Journalists, Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists and the Delhi Union of Journalists have fought for the rights of journalists and workers at this time of crisis.
As a joint action against the arbitrary decisions of managements controlled by the Indian Newspaper Society and the News Broadcasters Association and such groupings of managements, the Unions have decided to observe July 9 as National Protest Day in defence of the rights of journalists and journalism. Journalists around the country will participate in an online protest on July 9. Wherever it is possible, real protests will be held adhering to lockdown protocols and guidelines.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists has been observing July 9 as Press Rights Day. July 9 is the 19th death anniversary of famous Malayali photojournalist Victor George who passed away while covering a landslide in Kerala.
“Journalists in India are facing landslides of critical proportions at this point. A number of reporters and photographers have been infected with the deadly virus and ill-treatment by the managements and the governments have made their lives doubly difficult,” NAJ president SK Pande said.
DUJ general secretary Sujata Madhok said the Union Government and most of the State governments have remained mute spectators as journalists are retrenched and the laws of the land are violated blatantly by managements.
BUJ general secretary IK Jain said journalists have no other way than waging a united struggle against illegal retrenchments and wage cuts. “Thousand of journalists lost their jobs. Their salaries were reduced. We have to fight using all means, including industrial action through the Labour Department. In Mumbai, we are doing this. We appeal to all journalists and workers to join this protest on July 9,” Jain said.
LR Shankar, General Secretary of the MUJ, said his union has taken up the issue of illegal retrenchments in The Hindu and Vikatan groups with appropriate authorities. He said that unfair Labor Practices such as pay cuts, layoffs, retrenchments and transfers have become rampant in the media sector. “A large number of working journalists were forcefully separated from their offices illegally. We firmly believe that employees are the pillars of the newspaper industry in India. The financial burden during COVID 19 is well known. Our union believes that the employees will always be supportive to overpower such a financial crisis. The retrenchment and arbitrary termination of such employees are against the Working Journalist Act and Labour laws. Such Unfair Labour Practices should be stopped. MUJ has started legal and organisational steps against issues of retrenchments,” he added.
KUWJ general secretary ES Subhash said his union has approached the Kerala State Labour Commissioner against retrenchments in the Times of India and Deccan Chronicle. “We got a favourable verdict from the Kerala High Court on our petition against wage loss and job loss. Managements have to take Covid 19 as a cover-up to attack the rights of journalists. We will hold protests in front of every Press Club in Kerala on July 9,” Subhash said.
The Unions called upon all journalists and other media employees to participate in the National Protest Day through social media as well as other forms of peaceful protest