JOURNALISTS BODIES SHOCKED AT DEATH OF UNI JOURNALIST, CASTIGATE SERVICE CONDITIONS, INCREASING ATTACKS AND NEW ACCREDITATION POLICY

The National Alliance of Journalists (NAJ), Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ)and Kerala Union of Working Journalists(KUWJ), in association with the Press Club of India, held a protest meeting yesterday- against the tragic death by suicide of UNI photojournalist T.Kumar and to protest against increasing attacks on journalists rights and dignity. The Central government’s new accreditation policy was blasted- as being totally biased to end independent journalism and ensure a new era of government controlled journalism.

Similarly, grave concern was expressed against continued imprisonment of Kerala Journalist Siddique Kappan and the arbitrary ban on MediaOne TV channel, came under heavy attack the increasing harassment of Journalists in Kashmir was also noted. Increasing attacks on journalists in Tripura, UP and Kashmir were also recorded.

Earlier in the day, an extended Executive meeting of the Delhi union of journalists, set the tone for the protest, with a resolution on the death by suicide of UNI photo journalist T. Kumar and some DUJ members who had expired recently. They included Rohan Singh and S.K.Sharma.

DUJ Members wearing black badges, also expressed serious concern at the loss of several jobs in various news establishments by management, using Covid as an excuse for anti labour practices and forced retrenchments of journalists and press workers. The meeting demanded a phased opening of the news offices with due Covid precautions and fast track courts to ensure due implementation of the Majithia Wage Board Award for journalists and press workers. They noted the lingering of cases of victimized journalists and co-press workers.

In keeping with its earlier resolution, the National Alliance of Journalists and the DUJ, castigated the non-withdrawal of the anti labour codes of the Central government, increasingly being used as a threat to end the working journalist Act and various labour laws connected with journalists and press workers besides being a dark chapter to replace labour laws with pro corporate laws. The NAJ and DUJ called for wider mobilization and solidarity with the Central Trade Unions protest against the Labour Codes on March 28-29 throughout the country.

The DUJ at its Executive meeting before the protest also expressed its deep anguish and anger at the suicide of UNI photojournalist T. Kumar, age 56, who had worked for UNI since 1986 and was under severe financial stress because of non-payment of dues by UNI. The Chennai based journalist hung himself in the UNI office on February 13, 2022. The UNI management had not been paying his full salary for months. Reports say that Kumar was under pressure because of the expense of his wife’s hospitalization and his daughter’s pending engagement but UNI refused to pay his due salary. We express our deepest sympathies for his grieving family. We demand that the UNI management pay compensation to the family and also pay all his dues immediately, including his provident fund and salary backlog.

We note that persistent mismanagement by newspaper barons, who own UNI and continue to fight over its assets including extremely valuable land in the heart of New Delhi and several other places. Side by side government policies had ruined the finances of the news agency, by favouring other news agencies. Government policies it seemed that favor,ANI, and some others and totally discriminate against UNI in particular and also PTI .It was noted that even in Delhi, many journalists and press workers were who had been associated with it were still awaiting dues while others were existing in doles.

It was noted that in October 2021, after UNI staff from many bureaus came to Delhi and sat in protest outside the office, the management agreed to pay a small monthly sum to employees against a backlog of salaries. According to the UNI All-India Employees’ Front even this agreement has been breached. The UNI Front says, “Against a 60-month-salary backlog, the management has been doling out a sum of Rs 15,000 in lieu of pending monthly salaries. At superannuation, no employee gets gratuity, pending salaries and other legal dues.” UNI, is run by a board of directors and is currently controlled by the Maniple Media group to which the Chairman Sagar Mukhopadhyay belongs.

Those who addressed the protest meeting included the Press Club of India President Umakant Lakhera , PCI General Secretary Vinay Kumar, DUJ General Secretary Sujata Madhok , former PCI general secretary Anant Bagaitkar, Pius Kumar Bajpai Vice President DUJ, former chief UNI Urdu Sheik Manzoor, PK Manikandhan KUWJ Delhi and some others. The meeting was coordinated by the NAJ –DUJ president S.K.Pande.



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