Journalistic solidarity in India began to crack when media managements started using the contract system of employment to break unions at the cusp of liberalisation in 1991. With newsrooms increasingly split between secure “wage board” employees and higher-paid contractual staffers, journalists became islands.
To each her own.
#Coronavirus has had many effects, but it has rudely awakened journalists to how utterly dispensable they are even to profitable companies, as newspapers and TV news channels have brutally wielded the axe to chop heads, cut salaries, merge sections, suspend publications, announce closure–or, send them on “furlough”.
The only pushback, not surprisingly, has come from unions and associations.
# The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists has called the job losses and salary cuts “patently illegal, grossly unethical and unbelievably inhuman“.
# The National Alliance of Journalists has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court.
# Mumbai Press Club has urged the Union government to “blacklist” media groups which resort to illegal terminations, and bar them from benefiting in any way from the government’s rescue package/tax waiver schemes.
In this episode of J-POD, a podcast on journalism, Gurbir Singh (above), the president of Mumbai Press Club, points to the irony of media managements seeking duty cuts on newsprint, tax holidays, and assured advertising from government but unwilling to respect prime minister Narendra Modi‘s clarion call to protect jobs during #Coronavirus.
“Why couldn’t managements have waited a couple of months? The current moves are short term and will only end in disaster. At a time when hunger for good journalism is growing, they will have consequences.”
Singh, a veteran advocate of journalists’ rights, says media houses across India are preparing “cull lists” of journalists; non-journalists are also losing jobs. As a recipe, he suggests journalists should stick it out, join hands and fight it out—not just on Twitter—even as they seek advice, guidance and counselling.
Photograph: courtesy BusinessWorld