MEMBERS OF ORISSA’S ACTIVE PRESS, THINK AFRESH

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

With a pack of owners of news media organizations, marked more for exploitation of their employees and misuse of journalism in pursuit of avarice, have constituted a state level Press Club wherein a few of the working journalists believing to be elites amongst Orissa scribes, a few of them eager to ingratiate themselves with their owners, have also joined. The outfit is named: “The Orissa Press Club”.

Code of Ethics of Journalism in vogue in this land is not addressed to the conduct of the owners of the media organization, who control journalism. So, under their active instigation, docile journalists have caused severe damages to journalism in Orissa by making many unethical compromises to net in ads.

For the professional journalists of Bhubaneswar, a Press Club contrived by the same persons for whom media in Orissa is drowned under hyper-commercialism oblivious of the ethic and role of journalism, was not a matter of no significance. They, therefore, instantly and spontaneously met in a meeting where it was decided to constitute a Press Club of Professional Journalists. On deep deliberations, it was decided to name it as Orissa Media Club. Membership thereof was open to professional journalists only, belonging to all streams of journalism from print to photo to internet. I was interested to have such a Press Club.

Why this Club was necessary?

Journalists in Orissa are betrayed by their trade unions. They are treated like the subjects were being, in erstwhile kingdoms even in the Samaja founded by great humanitarian leader Gopabandhu Das. Multi District Daily Anupam Bharat has arbitrarily closed its Bhubaneswar edition and all the journalists working in this edition have been thrown into the streets. Almost all of the working journalists are facing job crisis in Orissa. But trade unions of working journalists are conspicuous by their absence in taking up their cause.

There are two officially recognized trade unions of working journalists, namely Utkal Association of Journalists affiliated to Indian Federation of Working Journalists and Orissa Union of Journalists affiliated to National Union of Journalists, India.

Both these trade unions of working journalists are headed by persons who are not working journalists themselves.

Not a single industrial dispute is raised by any of them at least during a decade that may vouch for their trade union activities.

Working journalists in media organizations are not being paid their salaries as per Wage Board awards. Not a single case is raised by any of these trade unions against non-implementation of Wage Board Awards.

None of these trade unions have any branch in any media organization to monitor implementation of Wage Board awards therein.

When the Utkal Journalist Association has transformed its premises to a hotel hub where marriages and similar social feasts are frequently held for rents, the premises of Orissa Union of Journalists has been transformed into a commercial hub with many shops running their businesses by paying rent to its office bearers. Thus both the trade unions of working journalists have severely violated the terms and condition of allocation of Government land and are busy in none-journalistic activities while keeping their eyes closed to unfair labor practices in all the media organizations and non-payment of wages to working journalists as provided for by the Wage Boards.

Conditions of services of the working journalists stipulated under the Laws are not adhered to in any media organization. But, the trade unions whose leaders bask under the glory of their proximity to media owners and ministers and government top brasses, never bother about that.

When employment interest of working journalists thus goes unattended to by their trade unions, the ethical component of journalism is expected to be served by the Press Clubs. Therefore, building up a club for professional journalists was a necessity.

Yet another club

To my surprise, a friend who was a very active participant in the preparatory meeting of the Media Club, informed me yesterday that he and many others that had joined the preparatory meeting of the Media Club, have abandoned it because of shenanigans marked in tampering with its resolutions and deviation from the original idea of having a media club on all Orissa basis. They have revived a Press Club namely “Orissa State Press Club” that was registered in 1994 and lying dormant, he informed.

Thus, a situation has been created in Bhubaneswar where three Press Clubs have raised their heads.

In this situation, those, who have dedicated their lives to journalism, ought to be apprised of who of the organizers of these “Clubs” has how much contribution to ethics of journalism so that they can decide whether or not joining a club would be congenial to furtherance of the cause of the Press.

Needed is unity against
oligopolistic designs of media owners

The ‘Press’ in Orissa has been pushed into a pattern where the common man, on whose subscription the income of media organizations flourish, has no role in policy decisions of the media he/she subscribes to.

This scenario has to be changed. The change can come only if professional journalists unite against oligopolistic designs of the owners of the media organizations. Trade Unions have failed. A Press Club, unless addressed to this aim, would be another trapdoor for detraction from real purpose of the Press.

So, friends in Orissa’s active Press, think afresh.

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