Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Assembly in session, Members across party lines have expressed profound shock over the state government’s anti-Press activities and have warned that unless administration changes its stance, democracy would be in jeopardy.

Journalists in Orissa are in deep despair due to curtailment of the role of their collective wisdom in matter of accreditation. Ever since Naveen Patnaik has taken over reigns of the State, freedom of Press has been severely transgressed and grant of accreditation has become a fantoccini farce. This farce became so ruthless that 87% of the accredited journalists were threatened with disaccreditation following a resolution adopted by the puppet committee. We in these pages exposed the illegality of this official action and maintained that:

The Committee has no power, excepting review, to disaccredit a journalist. Once accreditation is granted, it shall continue till the concerned journalist voluntarily returns it under Sub-Rule (v) of Rule 5, can be withdrawn under Sub-Rule (vi) of Rule 5, can be suspended by the Director, I. & P.R. as a punitive step against misuse of the facility under Sub-Rules (i) to (iii) of Rule 15, can be cancelled by the Director under Sub-Rule (v) and (vi) of Rule 15 when the accredited reporter remains absent in his headquarters for more than three consecutive months without any intimation and is found guilty of obtaining accreditation on false documents. None of the 87 % of Orissa journalists now threatened with disaccreditation are shown to be belonging to the above categories.

The illegality exposed, the committee abandoned its resolution and the department of information refrained from disaccreditation.

But it had no sooner stopped than newer ways were invented to transgress freedom of Press. It had to be; because Free Press is anathema to misrule.

Plutocracy needs a Puppet Press. And for this purpose it tries to weaken unity of journalists by pampering the black sheep section while disregarding their Trade Unions and subjecting them to deception in matters of collective bargaining. These tactics are practiced in Orissa by the recalcitrant Nabeen Government that has framed a new set of Accreditation Rules behind back of the journalists in 2006 obliterating their participation in the Accreditation Committee through their respective professional bodies, to which they have strongly resented.

The Government is so recalcitrant that advice from every right-thinking person that the administration should leave the matter of accreditation, as hitherto before, to professional bodies of journalists and editors instead of nominating its own favorites to the Committee has not fetched any result.

Resolved not to tolerate this “anti-journalists policy” any more, both the Trade Unions of Orissan scribes, the Utkal Journalists Association and the Orissa Union of Journalists have formed a “Journalists Co-ordination Committee” and on June 28 have demonstrated their collective wrath in front of the Orissa Assembly in session.

The demonstration programs having been announced a fortnight ago, the government tried to divide the journalists exploiting the weakness of some of them generated by recognition crisis, envy and avarice; but that did not click and journalists from every nook and corner of the state staged a unique demonstration against the official mischief.

This reminds me of a time when, as the Secretary of Orissa Union of Journalists, I had to burn down copies of the Working Journalists (Industrial Disputes) Act, 1955 as well as the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 before the Assembly in protest against the scope given to government in these two Laws to kill the conciliation reports and recommendations of the Labour Laws Administrative Machinery for forwarding the disputes to designated courts for adjudication and determination of the relief the affected journalists are entitled to.

Late Biju Patnaik, the then Leader of Opposition in Orissa Assembly had rushed to the spot, ignoring the Question Hour, to witness that first blaze of scribes’ wrath against pro-management manners of the Government.

He along with his Party Legislator Prasanna Pattasani heard my speech and discussed with me the problem in-depth; but surprisingly, sloughed over the crux of the issue while dealing with the matter in the House. More noteworthy than this is the fact that, the then heavyweights of my own Union except Narayan Rath and Barendrakrushna Dhal, had kept themselves surprisingly away from this event lest their personal rapports with the concerned official functionaries deteriorates.Only one person of my union Sri Anil Prasad Mishraremained on the spot to capture the moment and had circulated the photo through his agency EPA.

So, in collective life of journalists, opportunists are not rare, specifically when there is a political climate where both the benches side with managements and where Free Press is dreaded by both the sides.

With the help of some such opportunists, the Naveen regime has been playing havoc with the professional life of the scribes of Orissa.

The present leadership of both the genuine Trade Unions of Journalists of Orissa have rightly enumerated the plights of journalists in Naveenraj, which has been published.

When scribes collectively air ire against administration, the government that runs that administration must be a bad government. And, even in a plutocracy a bad government cannot be saved. The sooner Naveen Patnaik understands this, the better.

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