Draft Bill for Journalist Protection Act and Code of Conduct for Journalists

To, All Presidents and General Secretaries of State unions, Members of the IFWJ working committee, National Council and special invitees.

Draft Bill on Protection for Journalists… Base paper for debate at Jaisalmer session….

Dear Friends

As promised at the Chennai conference (12 June 2016) here is the Draft Bill on the Protection of Journalists included in the agenda of the 71st session of the Nationl Council at Jaisalmer (23-26 September 2016). As President K. Vikram Rao suggests, the Bill, finalized after the debate, will be handed over personally to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Smt. Sumitra Mahajan, and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Shri Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Vice-President, in Parliament House. Member should persuade their area M.P.S. to pursue it in Parliament during the winter session. Such a Bill has become law in Mexico and Pakistan and in process in some west Europeean Parliaments.

The Bill was studiously researched and drafted by the IFWJ legal adviser, Sri Ashwani Kumr Dubey, an Advocate on Reocrd in the Supreme Court of India. He will answer your queries at the National Council session on 24 September 2016.

Kindly Study the Draft and come to Jaislmer with your notes, commets and proposals.

With Warm regards

Fratenrally yours

(H. B. Madan Gowda)

Secretary-General : IFWJ

STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS

Unfortunately, the journalists who are the leading source of news and information for public of India are targeted and not accorded what they really deserve. Although, the media has created awareness in the society about the national and international issues but it is a big lapse that media itself is deprived of its due rights and there is no relevant law for the protection of journalists in India. Due to the absence of a protection law, the journalists are tortured, harassed, killed or badly injured in the line of their duties. Over 70 journalists in India have so far been martyred in the line of duty since 1 January  2000, and over 2,000 attacked, injured, tortured, assaulted, kidnapped, arrested, harassed and/or intimidated in the same period. The killer of not even one Indiai journalist killed so far has been arrested, prosecuted or punished. It is necessary to say that the lives of reporters, cameramen, photographers and all other persons related to print and electronic media are also as precious as the lives of the rulers of this country.

The above Act proposes that safety measures be taken for the protection of journalists, establishment of Social Security Fund, provision of special facilities, establishment of a National Journalists Council for in-time redress of the problems faced by journalists. Financial aid to the families of the journalists who lost their lives, got injured, tortured or kidnapped during their duties. However, the purpose of above law is to ensure rights, dignity, honour and protection of journalists, so that they can work better and professionally. Today, where the doors of every ministry, department, and division are closed on general public in the name of security measures, the media is the only source to create  awareness about the inside of departments’ working. If the above law is passed, this will be the best example of freedom and respect towards the media organs in India for the world.

A BILL to provide protection, security and relief to the journalists.

WHEREAS the Constitution of the Republic of India gives right of protection, respect and relief to every person; AND WHEREAS it is necessary to give protection to the journalists to perform their duties freely and in a better way;

It is expedient to enact law for the protection of journalists as follows:-

1. Short title, extent and commencement.-

(1) This Act may be called the Journalists Protection and Welfare Act, 2016.

(2) It shall extend to the whole of India.

(3) It shall come into force at once.

(4) This Act shall apply to all permanent, temporary, contractual and casual journalists employed by all existing media entities or working freelance but duly registered as journalists with either a registered media organization, registered press club or a registered journalists’ union like the (IFWJ), and who have a valid card of being a journalist from any one of these entities in the country.

2. Definitions.- In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant to the subject or context,-

(a) “Compensation” means help provided by the government in case of any mishap while performing his/her duties;

(b) “Environment” means where journalist is performing his/her duties and it includes the office and place where journalist has gone for special reports;

(c) “Facility” means care provided by the government to the journalists;

(d) “journalism” means the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, analyzing or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest;

(e) “journalist” means the journalist, including both male and female, as anyone who regularly gathers, prepares, collects, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, analyzes or publishes news or information that concerns local, national or international events or other matters of public interest;

(f) “Government” means federal government or a provincial government;

(g) “parking place” means any place which is allocated for parking of official transport or for general public and it also includes the place where journalist parks his/her transport while performing duties;

(h) “Protection” means all ways and means adopted by the government to protect the journalists and their children and other family members;

(i) “Social security” means social security provided by the government to the journalist; and

(j) “Transport” means transport used by the journalists.

(k) “Registered” means registered with a Government authority i.e Registrar of Trade Union or Ministry of Information and Broadcasting etc.

3. Protection of journalists from disclosure of information source.-

Journalist shall not be compelled to disclose their source and if circumstances occur and matters of national security importance are involved where disclosure of source is demanded, the Supreme Court of India has the right to ask about the source but it would not make it public.

4. Grant of loans on easy installments.-

(1) The Central Government shall make plans to construct houses for the journalists all over the country.

(2) Until these facilities are provided, the government will release interest-free loans for journalists on easy instalment basis for the purchase or construction of their houses.

5. Provision of special facilities to the journalists.-

(1) Journalists reporting as a beat reporter in any department (Central or Provincial) shall be assisted with transport facility, including granting of concessions to them while performing their duties.

(2) The Central Government shall formally announce provision of special fares in the Indian Railways, Air India (other private carriers), and Inter-city transport for journalists.

(3) The Central Government shall not charge any parking fee and tool tax from the journalists all over the country.

(4) Journalists shall be given access to public places, including government-controlled places except high security military areas, for their professional work without any hindrance, whenever required, for coverage in the public interest.

(5) In case of national calamity, eruption of fire, accidents, or natural disasters, the Central Government shall provide special jackets and all other allied facilities such as water, food and fuel to journalists during coverage, especially in emergency situations.

(6) Journalist and his immediate family (spouse, children and parents) shall be entitled to free medical treatment at all government hospitals all over the country. In case of emergency medical treatment to journalists i.e. accidents, natural calamities and emergencies and the District Health Officer or Tehsil Health Officer, as the case may be, shall be primarily responsible for such treatment.

(7) The Government shall provide free education at all levels to the children of journalists and shall be encouraged for scholarships for higher education.

(8) All officials (of any grade) working in any Government department shall ensure facilitation and respect for the journalists during their work-related assignments.

(9) Every Central Ministry and state departments shall allocate reasonable sitting place where basic facilities such as chairs, tables, stationery and drinking water shall be made available for the journalists.

(10) Journalists shall be eligible for all above facilities automatically on having valid journalist cards issued as per guidelines stated above.

6. Special safety measures.-

(1) The Government shall provide on-spot and on- demand protection facility to the journalists.

(2) In case journalist feels threatened and needs protection in residing or any other area, the SHO of the area where the journalists reside or any other area, shall provide the required protection and security.

(3) If any incident occurs in the limits of any police station and the SHO of the area was informed about the incident but has not taken action, the SHO shall be held responsible for any harm to the journalist.

7. Establishment of journalists social security fund.-

(1) A Social Security Fund shall be established for journalists and in case of sudden death, the spouse, children and other dependants for example parents shall get benefit from Social Security Fund, as well as assistance with free education, including scholarships, and marriage assistance.

(2) If a journalist loses life during performance of duties, or is injured, his/her family shall be compensated with at least Rs. 30 lakhs,  in case of death, Rs. 10 lakhs, in case of major injury and Rs. 5 lakhs,  in case of minor injury and the treatment cost would be borne by the government.

(3) If a journalist had taken loan from the government, it shall be waived off automatically after his/her death.

(4) The Social Security Fund shall ensure every journalist and his/her immediate family members in India, who have a valid journalist card, with the government-owned State Life Insurance Company.

8. National Journalists Council :- There shall be established a National Journalists Council consisting of the following members:-

(a) Two members from the journalist Trade Union.

(b) one member from media owners.

(c) one member from judieuasry.

(d) one member from Labour Department.

(e) Two members from Parliament.

(f) the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Member

(g) Secretary, Ministry of Home Member

(2) A member shall, unless he/she resigns or is removed from office earlier, hold office for period of three years and shall be eligible for reappointment for one more term only.

(3) A member may resign from his office by writing under his hand addressed to the Chairman of the Council or may be removed by concerned body, if he is found unable to perform the functions of his office because of mental or physical disability or misconduct including corruption or dishonesty.

(4) At the first meeting of the Council, after the members have been appointed by the bodies concerned, the Council shall proceed to elect from amongst its members a Chairman, and so often as the Office of the Chairman becomes vacant the Council shall elect another member as its Chairman. The term of office of the Chairman shall be three years or the term he is a member of the Council, whichever is less.

9. Functions of the National Journalists Council.-

(1) The National Journalists Council shall perform the following functions:-

(a) to give proposals and programmes to the government for the protection of journalists during their duties;

(b) to introduce mechanisms to solve the problems of journalists;

(c) to create an enabling and conducive environment in the public and private sectors towards the capacity building and creation of educational opportunities for journalists;

(d) to ensure prompt action on the complaints and problems of the journalists;

(e) to arrange seminars, consultation programmes, conferences and roundtables where awareness will be generated for the protection of journalists and the honour and dignity of their work;

(f) to mediate cases pertaining to payment of wages and other fringe benefits among the media owners and employees; and

(g) to take such other steps as may be necessary to achieve the purposes of this Act.

10. Steps to be taken to support and facilitate media.-

(1) The Government shall facilitate and support the journalists to play effectively their role of being the guardians of public interests by ensuring their freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.

(2) Every Central Government Ministry or Provincial Government department, as the case may be, shall assist the media to ensure their right of access to information in accordance with Article 19A of the Constitution, including providing access to all unclassified information.

(3) The government shall ensure protection of and support to all women journalists against any type of harassment or discrimination in the performance of their duties.

(4) The Government shall share costs with those media organizations who desire to build Day Care Centers for their children in or near the places of their work.

11. Power to make rules.- The Central Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act. 7

12. Punishment.- Any person who wilfully interferes with or restrain access to information or coerce any journalist in the exercise of his/her duties or deprive him/her of rights guaranteed by this Act or in any manner commits any act in violation of the provisions of this Act, be punished with a fine of not less than rupees Rs. 1 Lakhs (as the nature of the case may be), or imprisonment of not less than six months, or both, depending upon the severity of the misdemeanour at the discretion of the court: Provided that if the offender is a public official, he shall be stopped immediately from his duties till the case is decided.

13. Modification of the law.- Any law, executive order, rules or regulations inconsistent with the provisions of this Act shall be modified accordingly.

14. Removal of difficulties.- If any difficulties arise in giving effect to any of the provisions of this Act, the Central Government may make such order, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, for removing the difficulty.

(Drafted by Shri Ashwani Kumar Dubey, Advocate on Record, Supreme Court of India and legal advisor of the IFWJ.)

IFWJ call for code of conduct

(Presented by Vishwadev, Member : National Council)

Friends

In the very first years of its existence (1950), the Indian Federation of Working Journalists had discussed and drafted a Code of Conduct for journalists at its Kolkata plenary session. While Mr. Chalapathi Rau presided, the freedom-fighter and member of Parliament, Shri K. Rama Rao, IFWJ vice-president then, had drafted the Code. In course of time its efficacy slid because of chasm between precept and practice. However, the need for a code was always felt by IFWJ members.

Several members from different State unions insisted that a code is imperative in the prevailing anarchic situation in the media world. With the advent of the electronic media the need becomes more urgent. Virtually jungle raj now prevails. The self-regulating mechanism is a sham. The Press Council is dead as dodo, with vested interests dominating.

Therefore, the IFWJ, in an endeavour to sensitise media persons, felt its duty to draft a Code of Conduct. Lest posterity should raise an accusing finger at us for dereliction of duty.

Therefore, a draft is sent to you for your scrutiny.

Basic Assumptions

Let us first begin on certain premises and assumptions. Journalism, a dignified and noble profession, must try to reflect the social responsibility of its practioners. Professional integrity is the corner stone of a journalist’s integrity. He/she must believe that pursuit of news is not a license for arrogance. While a newsperson is engaged in gathering, transmitting, disseminating and commenting on news, he/she must beware of harmful inaccuracies, because a journalist is not merely responsible for narration of events which he/she covers but also the events that occur in their aftermath. An example is the reporting of communal riots, which demand utmost impartiality and also deep concern for humanity.

Before proceeding to formulate some principles of a draft Code of Conduct, the IFWJ national council, meeting in its 71st session in Jaislmer, after 12 years in Rajasthan recalls its 61st session held in Jaipur on 24-26 June 2005, where the following resolution was adopted :

IFWJ national councillors had at Jaipur session vowed firmly to ensure media credibility, and consequently, its accountability. Reproduced below is the Jaipur resolution:

Resolutions on Media Accountability

The meeting of the I.F.W.J. national council’s 61st session in Jaipur (Rajasthan) on 23-26 June 2005:

Recalling that freedom of expression is an inviolable human right,

Recalling that freedom of the press is fundamental to democracy because of the right of the people to be informed on matters of public interest,

Recalling that the free press should exercise its powers in a responsible manner,

Recalling that the press is accountable to the public, but not to the Government, and

Recalling the important role which the press council can play as part of the “Media Accountability Systems”, appropriate in a democracy,

The IFWJ delegates:

Encouraged the IFWJ to continue and to publish its work in making the Press Council genuinely representative.

Supported the right of the people and the press to access to public information without any payment of fees,

Encouraged the IFWJ to continue its investigation and to report on the various systems used in the resolution of complaints against the Media,

Recommended that the IFWJ investigate and report on the methods whereby complaints by the press about conduct towards it are investigated properly.

Recommended that the IFWJ continue to involve professional associations of journalists, editors and publishers in its activities,

Adopted in the City of Jaipur, this 25th day of June, Two Thousand and Five.

Friends, now avoiding clichés, generalities and homilies, the IFWJ points to certain essential practices necessary in today’s media would. The aim here is to guide through numerous difficulties, such as conflicts of interest, and to assist journalists in dealing with ethical dilemmas.

They can be summarised as:

1. They shall not allow personal interests to influence them in their professional duties. They shall not allow advertising or commercial considerations to influence them.

2. It is not ethical for a reporter to write a news piece on the same topic on which he or she has written an opinion piece in the same paper?

3. They shall do their utmost to correct any published or broadcast information found to be harmfully inaccurate.

4. They shall balance speed and accuracy in different ways.

5. They shall demonstrate powerfully what it looks like when ethics in journalism stands up to financial clout.

6. They shall report and interpret the news with scrupulous honesty by striving to disclose all essential facts and by not suppressing relevant, available facts or distorting by wrong or improper emphasis.

7. Reporting the truth is almost never libel, which makes accuracy very important.

8. Newspapers or journalists who respond to a complainant’s reply other than to apologize or regret the error, must then be prepared to offer the aggrieved party a fresh opportunity to reply.

9. A journalist shall not knowingly promote communal or religious discord or violence.

10.  Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.

11.  Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.

12.  Private persons have privacy rights that must be balanced against the public interest in reporting information about them.

13.  Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. 

14.  A journalist shall never reveal a source of information after guaranteeing confidentiality.

15.  The use of long-lens or other cameras to photograph people without consent on private or public property where there is a reasonable expectation or privacy is unacceptable, unless in the public interest.

16.  The free flow of information is vital for informing citizens; and works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect.

Kindly scrutinize above proposal. You may modify, cut, add and make suggestions.

Your fraternally

(Vipin Dhuliya)

IFWJ Secy. (H.Q.). New Delhi

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