Defend Journalism Now: DUJ

The 30th World Press Freedom Day on May 3, which was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1993, is supposed to act as a “reminder to governments” of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. For journalists, the Day is to reflect about issues of “press freedom and professional ethics”. But the situation, after 30 years, is not at all rosy. This year the main theme was “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a driver for all other human rights”. Speaking on this occasion of World Press Freedom Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a rallying cry for journalists and media worldwide. “All our freedom depends on press freedom,” he said in a video message, calling it the “foundation of democracy and justice” and the “lifeblood of human rights.”

The World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) notes that in 2023 India’s ranking has dropped sharply to 161 out of 180 countries. In 2022 it’s rank was 150. RSF had recently warned about a two-fold increase in polarisation. It said media polarisation is fuelling divisions within countries, as well as between countries at the international level. The collapse of many economies after the pandemic has further fuelled polarisation in many countries. The big corporate media has played an active role in creating divisions among people. 

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, in a press brief mentioned that India is no different. The corporate media seems to have pledged total support to the current government. Many TV channels are now owned by corporates are seemingly aligned with the ruling party. News about corporate corruption, protests by farmers and workers, people’s issues and issues raised by the opposition is often ignored or covered up. Many independent thinking journalists who do not bow down to those in power have either lost jobs or got sidelined in the process. 

Attacks against independent media and independent journalists have increased sharply in recent years. These range from intimidation to physical and ‘legal’ attacks that misuse the law. Trolling, particularly of women journalists, is merciless. Many journalists are being harassed by arbitrary filing of cases and even arrested for doing their job. 

The DUJ urged the Centre to stop attacks on the media and also urged the Parliament and the Judiciary to strike down sedition and defamation laws that are repeatedly used against journalists and other citizens. It mentioned that draconian laws like UAPA and PMLA be revised urgently. Parliament must review the new rules for digital media that will strike the death knell for independent media. The Centre and the States should stop implementing the Labour Codes, which have subsumed the Working Journalists Act. This Act has played a pivotal role in protecting freedom of press. Through the press communique the DUJ requested the Centre to immediately announce a new tripartite Wage Board for the entire industry and also a special law to protect media persons and the entire media industry. The DUJ in its press note also mentioned that it salutes all journalists and call upon them to collectively defend the freedom of the press and dignity of labour for journalists. Pic courtesy: US Embassy

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