Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
I got an invitation to attend National Press Day at IDCOL auditorium on 16th November at 5.30 PM “positively” to “receive The Janata Personal Accident Insurance for three years from the chief guest”.
The ruling party’s super-supremo Pyari Mohan Mohapatra was projected as the chief guest in the invitation card.
It was covered by a letter signed by three of Orissa’s known journalists under the letter head of an organization with a registered number, styled as National Journalist Welfare Board.
To my horror I found in the invitation card a list of 13 persons including four Ministers, two MPs and one MLA belonging to the ruling party and the rest comprising three officers of the National Government, one of an insurance company and two henchmen were to address the audience as Chief Guest, Chief Speaker, Guests of Honour, and Speakers. But surprisingly there was none from the Press to speak on this occasion. I decided to ignore the invitation.
Press is being repressed as never before in Orissa. Rural reporters not showing inclination not to report starvation deaths, not to report baby-selling by helpless mothers, not to report stone eating by hungry landless tribes, not to report wretchedness of the displaced, not to report swindling away of welfare funds by the nexuses of officials and contractors, not to report hijacking of essential commodities from public distribution system into the black-market by traders, not to report clandestine trade of narcotics by police personnel of their localities, are being framed up in cooked up cases under severe charges such as sedition, a recent instance of which is the case clamped on Sambad reporter Laxman Choudhury and / or being brutally beaten up by ruling party goons, as has recently happened to Samaj reporter Jagannth Basita.
More tormenting than this is the cold apathy the State Government has deliberately shown in responding to appeals from the fourth estate to save Freedom of Press from such ongoing brutalization.
It is shocking therefore that a few of the community of journalists in Orissa have tried to play tricks on the fraternity by clever offer of “accident insurance” through a pack of Orissa Ministers on the National Press Day, designed to divert attention form the plight of journalists in the hands of administration to their imagined disadvantage due to absence of insurance coverage.
These fellows have floated an organization styled as “National Journalists Welfare Board”, which has no national authenticity,entity or accountability.
Its name is willfully contrived to show it as an authentic national organization. And, it is shown to be “in association with” the National Government’s media organizations like Press Information Bureau, Directorate of field Publicity, All India Radio and Doordarshan.
Has the National Government floated it? No.
Has the National Government adopted it? No.
Has the National Government accorded it any affiliation? No.
But local officials of the above noted wings of the National Government have, behind back of the National Government, allowed it to be seen as authentic by allowing the public to note that they are “in association with” this body.
This dubious set-up, has, on the National Press Day, tried to corrupt the scribes’ community by entrapping them into the official design of “accident insurance”, with the idea that their real disadvantage lies not in prosecution by administration, but in loss of life or limbs in organized attacks or in action that could be termed as accidents normal in the profession!
But it is heartening to note that majority of journalists have refused the offer, even though they were present in the auditorium to watch the event. Only 13 out of a hundred of State level accredited journalists offered the insurance accepted the policies when 87 of them refused to come to the podium.