IJU Concern Over ‘Shutdown’ of Shillong Times
New Delhi, 24 August 2020: The Indian Journalists Union expresses concern over the random shutdown of The Shillong Times, by the District authorities after declaring its office building as containment area and reported violations of COVID-19 protocol. Given that media is an ‘essential service’, the newspaper management should have been allowed to make requisite arrangements to come out with the edition by taking all precautions, the IJU said and demands the authorities in Shillong review their order.
In a message to its readers, the Shillong Times said: “After 75 years of service, we got the stick from the government for alleged violation of health protocol. This means that ST will not hit the stands from August 23 onwards.” A copy of the government order issued on Saturday said there was “detection of positive COVID-19 cases/high rick contacts in the specified location Rilbong….all staff quarters share a common entrance and all protocols of social distancing wearing of face masks and all sanitisation were being violated,’ and it was necessary to declare it as containment zone.
However, the daily has contested the accusation saying all protocols were in place but ‘an official order picked holes’. Its Editor Patricia Mukhim told IJU “All we are asking is that since those tested positive are under quarantine, the rest of the staff testing negative and who are not direct or secondary contacts of machine workers, be allowed to work from their home with skeletal staff being allowed in newsroom. But even that is not being allowed although the office was sanitized last evening. What sort of authoritarian regime is this which does not even allow essential services to function?”
In a statement, IJU President and former Member, Press Council of India, Geetartha Pathak and Secretary General and IFJ Vice President Sabina Inderjit said that while authorities are in their place in ensuring safety of people, they should have discussed the issue with the newspaper management rather than an ad hoc closure. It sends a wrong message said the Union adding whether the same yardstick of shut down would be allowed say in Government buildings housing various Ministries, where some cases are found positive? It urged the authorities to heed to the newspaper’s plea, allow the edition and not add to the woes of the journalists already working under pressure.