The Delhi Union of Journalists and its Gender Council notes with deep concern the deteriorating work environment within media houses, particularly TV channels, which stands exposed by the attempted suicide of a woman TV anchor on the premises of India TV. Behind the glamour projected by the TV industry is the grim story of abysmal employment practices, 24/7 working hours, high pressure deadlines, arbitrary contracts and hire and fire practices.
The DUJ today approached the Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Shri Prakash Javadekar, in this context and reiterated its long-standing demand that the Working Journalists Act be extended to the entire news media including the electronic media which lacks all regulations. In particular, the DUJ Gender Council pointed out that women employees, who are especially vulnerable to a variety of pressures, need greater protection of labour laws and regulations. Strong measures need to be urgently taken to prevent harassment at the workplace.
The DUJ demands a rollback of insecure contract employment which is frequently used to threaten and harass employees. It also demands the institutionalization of transparent and fair managerial practices in the mushrooming TV industry and the introduction of proper HR policies. The arbitrary termination of the India TV anchor, by treating an SMS to a senior as a resignation letter, exposes the lack of professionalism in the channel’s managerial practices.
DUJ calls upon senior journalists in managerial positions to be more sensitive and empathetic in their dealings with co-professionals, howsoever junior they may be. It is their duty to mentor and support younger colleagues, not harass or exploit them. It is unfortunately evident in the India TV episode that seniors misused their position to push a young woman to the edge.
Lastly, the DUJ condemns the blacking out of the suicide episode by most TV channels as a regrettable expression of managerial solidarity. A suicide attempt by a page 3 person or actor would have been headline news on all the channels for days at a stretch. Was this attempted suicide too close to home to make news? Should the media not scrutinize its own face in the mirror? (June 24, 2014)
(S K Pande)
LETTER TO SHRI PRAKASH JAVADEKAR
June 24, 2014
The Honourable Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting
Dear Shri Javadekar,
This is to bring to your kind attention a grave matter that is of urgent concern to the entire media fraternity. As you may be aware, on June 22, 2014 it was reported in the news media that a young woman anchor of the channel India TV attempted to commit suicide on the premises of the channel. Fortunately, when her colleagues realized the gravity of her situation, she was rushed to hospital and her life was saved. However, the episode brings to the spotlight the extremely challenging working conditions within the TV industry today.
As a 65-year-old organization of working journalists we are deeply concerned at the complete lack of regulation of the electronic media and its arbitrary hire-and-fire employment policies. We firmly believe that there is an urgent need to extend the protections of the Working Journalists Act to the electronic media. We believe that the practice of contract employment adversely affects the security and independence of journalists and leaves them open to various pressures. Women journalists are particularly vulnerable to harassment at the workplace.
We are enclosing a copy of a Press Release issued by our organization in this context. We would request you to give due consideration to our appeal for greater regulation of employment practices in the media.
We also wish to point out that the Majithia Wage Board Award for newspaper employees, notified by the Government of India and upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this year, has still to be implemented by many newspaper organizations. We request you to kindly ensure immediate implementation of a Wage Award that has the sanction of the highest court of the land.
Chairperson, Gender Council & President DUJ
(S K Pande)
General Secretary, DUJ