An Open Letter to Markandey Katju: Non-Publication of a News Item - Workers March To Parliament
|Catalyst Study Circle , Forum Against Manual Scavenging , TN Labour Blog||January 7, 2014|
[This is an open letter written by some members of the Catalyst Study Circle, தொழிலாளர் கூடம் (Thozhilalar koodam) and the Forum Against Manual Scavenging(FAMS) to Markandey Katju, Chairperson, Press Council of India on non-publication of a news-item related to workers march to parliament. We encourage the readers to endorse it. Anyone who wishes to endorse this open letter can do so by posting their name and affiliation/institute/profession below in the comments section. The Press Council of India is a statutory body established by Press Council Act 1978, an act to establish a Press Council for the purpose of preserving the freedom of the Press and of maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India. ]
It is with dismay that we, readers from Tamil Nadu of esteemed English daily newspapers (print version) like The Hindu, The Times of India, New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle etc., want to bring to your notice the lack of coverage of a news, which we had come to know through social networking sites, about two lakh workers' "March to Parliament" organized by 11 central trade unions on 12th Dec 2013 (see video by Malavika Vyawahare and the post by Venkat) that has not been given any coverage on 13th Dec 2013 in Tamil Nadu at least in Chennai based print editions. This seems to be also true with all mainstream English TV media channels. The people's gathering in this march seems to be larger than any Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi rally which often gets best possible coverage by all mainstream print media and even live coverage by all mainstream TV channels. Though we have come to know about this through social networking sites, it has got some small coverage only in New Delhi city edition. Instead, on 13th Dec 2013, we have been fed by all these major dailies (mentioned above) with the news of a "royal" (Bhuvaneshwari-Sreesanth) wedding in Kerala with photographs! We have nothing against the couple and we wish them all the best! The news of this "royal" wedding in Kerala with photographs seems to have found place in these newspapers as far a place as Delhi too.
This is not an isolated incident and we give a few incidents of non-publication of similar events that have been well articulated in the alternative media.
|Tens of thousands of trade unionists, including those from INTUC, marched through the streets of New Delhi to protest food prices on Feb 23,2011. (Image Credits: Reuters)|
Siddharthya Roy says on the coverage of Mill Workers Protest in Mumbai: "But ironically what does not find place anywhere in the reports is the core issue itself – the workers' protest! What was the march about? How many people attended it? Who were the organisers? What were their specific demands? What’s the background of the issue? How has the State responded to it?”
P. Sainath while delivering the T G Narayan Memorial Lecture (see the video from atiltpd) at IIT Madras organized by Asian College of Journalism, Chennai narrated the conspicuous non-publication of news-items about "disciplined" assembly of more than 2 million (20 lakh) people for the 57th death anniversay of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar on 6th December in (Chaityabhoomi) Mumbai, Maharashtra. (see the post in Round Table India). It seems that this was covered again only as local news in Mumbai print edition in few of the above mentioned newspapers. Or the only other related news was about the "nuisance" this caused to "general" public which according to Sainath is farthest from truth. In this context, it is pertinent to mention the case of non-publication of any news about the alleged involvement of Mukesh Ambani’s son in an accident in Mumbai on 8th December, 2013 that killed 2 people. (see the post from Kamayani Bali Mahabal)
Even when a news item about the common people - organized and unorganized workers, tribals, dalits, women, backwards, LGBT, differently-abled, religious minorities - is published, many times it is done without any regard and sensitivity towards "recognized ethical canons of journalistic propriety and taste", and in most cases even revealing the identity of survivor(s). From the excerpts of Procedure for filing the complaint, we got to know that we can file an official complaint to Press council of India regarding this matter of non-publication of a news-item. We quote:
Complaints against the Press: It is open to any person to lodge a complaint with the Press Council against a newspaper for a breach of the recognized ethical canons of journalistic propriety and taste. The complainant need not necessarily be the person aggrieved or directly involved. The alleged breach may be in the publication or non-publication of a news-item or statement, or other material, like cartoons, pictures, photographs, strips or advertisement which are published in a newspaper.
The procedure for filing the complaint states that before doing so we should bring it to the notice of concerned editors of above mentioned newspapers:
Write to the editor first. It is a requirement of the Inquiry Regulations that the complainant should initially write to the editor of the newspaper drawing his attention to what the complainant considers to be a breach of journalistic ethics or an offence against public taste.[...] This rule is necessary because it acquaints the editor with the identity of his accuser and the details of the complaint.
Though we understand the necessity of initially writing "to the editor of the newspaper drawing his attention", we are unable to understand why it is necessary to acquaint "the editor with the identity of his accuser"? Couldn’t there be a better mechanism of filing the complaint by revealing the identity of his/her accuser to only those (say PCI only) to which it is utmost required? This issue becomes more pertinent in contemporary times with recent case of “snooping” of an adult (common) woman by the State of Gujarat under the aegis of Narendra Modi, that came to light again primarily through alternative social media networking sites.
Using social media as a potential site of alternative media, we bring this to your notice rather than pursuing the matter officially. This is primarily for two reasons.
- While we understand that Press Council has a procedure for filing a complaint on non-publication of news-item which requires that we also bring the said notice to the attention of concerned editors, we choose not to do so as this is not a reflection against a single newspaper and that it is not specific to a single news item.
- Some of us still trust some of the editors and sub-editors in these newspapers and believe that they shall take note of this matter through your intervention and take up these matters seriously and persuade their newspapers to carry news of, for and by common people who constitute more than 90% of India’s Population.
These biased reporting of news reflect a tendency on the part of the media to define only "sensational" content as newsworthy and filter out the struggles of common people. Though we are not suggesting anything specific here, we want you to take note of this matter seriously and do the needful. We, the undersigned, who have always stood for the freedom of press, resolve to carry forward this struggle against non-publication of people oriented news-items in future as well.
Following people, among many others, have endorsed the letter:
- Sadanand Menon, Arts editor and Adjunct Faculty, Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai
- C Lakshmanan, Faculty, Madras Institute of Development Studies
- Sujatha Mody, Penn Thozhillalar Sangam
- V Geetha, Writer, Translator, Social Historian, and Activist
- Vijay Bhaskar, Faculty, Madras Institute of Development Studies
- Venketash Athreya, Adjunct Faculty, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai
- R Vaigai, Advocate, Madras High Court
- JBG Tilak, National University of Educational Planning and Administration
- Dhiman Chatterjee, Academic and Member, Sanhati
- Ajit Menon, Faculty, Madras Institute of Development Studies
- Milind Brahme, Faculty, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
- Solomon Benjamin, Academic
- Chakravarty M, Faculty, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
- Karkada Nagaraj, Faculty, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai
- Kalapana Karunakaran, Faculty, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
- Karuna D W, Researcher and Activist
- Karen Koelho, Faculty, Madras Institute of Development Studies
- Kripa Ananthpur, Faculty, Madras Institute of Development Studies
- Bhaskar, Member, Communist Propaganda Forum
- K Pazhani, General Secretary, Makkal Sananayaka Kudiayarasu Katchi, Tamil Nadu
- Bala Subramanium, Faculty, MK University.
- Prabakaran, Writer, Scholar and Activist
- Madhumita Dutta, Researcher and Activist
- Kunal Shankar, Journalist
- Stalin Ranjagam, Writer, Scholar and Activist
- G Anand, General Secretary, GIEA, South Zone
- Sunmuga Sundaram, Editor, Ilaignar Muzhakkam
- Vel Murugan, State Secretary, Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Tamil Nadu
- A. Kumaresan, Member, Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers' Association
- V Parameswaran, Editor In-charge, Theekkathir
- J Chidambaranathan, President , Democratic Trade Union Centre
- Meena Kandasamy, Poet, Fiction Writer, Translator and Activist
- Soundarajan, MLA and President, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Tamil Nadu
- Amirtham Lenin, Faculty, Loyola College
- Sidhartha Sindhan Periyasamy
- Chandrika Radhakrisnan, Researcher and Activist
- Safwan Amir, Research Scholar, MIDS
- Deepa, State Committee Member, DYFI and Research Scholar, MIDS, Chennai
- Saravana Kumar, Student, Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS)
- Deepak Johnson, Student, Indian Institute of Technology – Madras (IIT- M)
- Venkat, Research Scholar, MIDS and Activist, Chennai
- Preetha, Research Scholar, MIDS, Chennai
- Jaganth, Researcher, MIDS
- Meenakshi, Research Scholar, MIDS and Activist
- Manoj, Engineer
- Rashmi MD, Student, Loyola and Activist
- Abhishek, Journalist
- Ganesh, Engineer
- Bethanavel , Student, IIT- Madras
- Gowtham, Student
- Aparajay, Research Scholar, MIDS
- Arun, Research Scholar, Loyola College, Chennai
- Hari Prasad, Public Sector Bank Employee
- Kiran, Student, JEDI University
- Suriya S, Research Scholar, MIDS
- Kathir, Member, Student Federation of India
- Sruti MD, Member, Student Federation of India
- Kishore Kumar, Member, Student Federation of India
- Jerome Samraj C, Faculty, Department of Economics, Pondicherry University.
|23 Feb 2011, Markandey Katju, Non Publication, Politics, Press Council of India, Price rise, protests, Workers march, India, Labour, Note, Struggles|
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