Imphal, Sept. 25: The Press Council of India (PCI) is “seriously thinking” of recommending enactment of a legislation to protect journalists in India from physical harm, threat and intimidation.
“The PCI is seriously thinking of making a proposal to Parliament for enacting a law for safeguard and protection of journalists in the country,” Kosuri Amarnath, convener of the PCI sub-committee on safety of journalists told The Telegraph today.
A six-member team of the sub-committee, headed by Kosuri, is here to examine the issue of safety of journalists by interacting with reporters and the state government.
The committee members, who arrived here yesterday afternoon, listened to grievances of mediapersons in a two-hour-long interaction today.
Issues raised by journalists ranged from low salary to threats and intimidation from state and non-state actors.
In a representation, the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union said seven journalists have been killed in the state since 1993 and there were several cases of assault by police and threats and intimidation, including a case where several senior journalists were taken hostage by militants. In official records, there are about 40 militant groups in the state.
Manipur has a big media presence with around 30 newspapers and periodicals and several local cable television channels airing news-based programmes.
The team is scheduled to meet deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, who is also the home minister, and senior officials tomorrow afternoon on measures taken by the state government for the safety of mediapersons.
The team had already visited 10 states, including Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura in the Northeast, before coming to Manipur.
Kosuri said the increasing cases of attacks on journalists across the country had drawn the attention of the PCI, which constituted the sub-committee on September 19, 2011 to examine the matter in depth under its mandate by Parliament to preserve the freedom of press.
Interacting with reporters, Kosuri said most of the chief ministers of the states, including Maharashtra, had suggested framing of a legislation for protection of journalists.
“We will also discuss the matter (enacting a legislation) with Manipur government authorities when we meet them tomorrow,” Amarnath said.
Kalyan Barooah, a member of the committee, said in most of the states, police failed to register cases relating to attacks on mediapersons.
He urged mediapersons to immediately write to the PCI in case of an attack and promised that the PCI would take immediate action.
He said an amendment in the PCI Act of 1978 was pending with the government and the amendment would include summoning of officials, including army officers, in cases of alleged attacks on journalists.
Reacting to the “exploitation” of mediapersons by owners of media houses by not paying enough, Kosuri urged them to be “unionised and be very militant” when they fought with the government or their proprietors.