India

Make your visit count by addressing issues of small newspapers

golden yug
[ September 22, 2017 ] At the outset, our Association feels highly privileged to have distinguished members from Press Council of India visiting Jammu to listen to grievances of Print Media more so as it has not been done in the past resulting in mounting of sufferings especially of small newspapers in Jammu. We take this golden opportunity to highlight prominent grievances which are being faced by fraternity unheard by concerned authorities over the years. Your visit undoubtedly has created the lost hope among the small newspapers that ultimately their voice be given ear and finally they will be allowed to have dignified life as journalists which has been only a distant reality as instead of raising their standard, concerned authorities more focused on eliminating them on whose behest will be your task to find out so that professional journalism doesn’t dies its own death with regard to small newspapers. The information department lacks transparency and the same is resented by small newspapers on virtually daily basis due to its recurrence frequently. State Govt in 2016 framed new Advertisement Policy claiming that it will end disparity and discrimination between newspapers by categorizing newspapers to ensure equal distribution of advertisements based on their contents and coverage besides other parameters. This would have been major booster for hard working journalists and their newspapers had it been implemented in letter and spirit. But even after passage of nearly two years nothing has been done in this regard which speaks volume that department is least bothered about transparency and till day killing time only to continue undue favour to blue eyed newspapers at the cost of small newspapers which are striving hard with highly professional covering of social events and reminding govt from time to time with their coverage. No doubt as a Journalist, it becomes moral duty to narrate reality before the public so that guilty be punished and right ones be rewarded but the hard reality is also that they also need decent and timely salaries to nourish their families. With highly discriminatory nature of distribution of Govt advertisements, it becomes extremely difficult for editor of newspapers to provide salaries to staff in time as it is difficult to bear expenses of publishing newspapers without financial support from Information Department in the form of Govt advertisements. It becomes unbearable when one works hard and gets nothing and others which have nothing to offer are suitably supported by providing govt advertisements in bulk at will. It is heartbreaking to note that small newspapers are at the verge of closing publications as the financial support they are getting from department is to meager to manage expenses of publishing newspapers. Hence if you want to make your visit worth, this particular issue needs to be addressed on priority. Moreover it is shameful to note that information department has bizarre explanation that due to low budget for advertisements, it is unable to meet the expenses and hence in favour of closing some of newspapers which is great disrespect to fourth pillar of democracy. Moreover when there is expansion in every field being welcomed by one and all, then such an attitude towards print media working hard even much more than electronic media whose expansion has moved many folds in comparison to print media which has been working without any obstacles. It deserves mentioning here that the advertisements rates were revised last in 2013 and since then the rates have not been revised that too even after Govt committed in the house that the advertisement rates will be hiked by 50% but nothing has been done in this regard. Also the annual budget has not been revised for years together when the rates of all other commodities have gone high many folds which proves that govt is least bothered about the well being of journalists and also raising their living standard for their hardworking and highly professional duties including taking policies and programmes of Govt to gross root level. Moreover information department ignoring guidelines of PCI which states that advertisements to newspapers can’t be stopped only because of publication of critical news items of Govt or some of its Ministers/officials without giving an opportunity of hearing has stopped the govt advertisements to such newspapers which showed mirror to govt with their reporting based on facts and figures. Department of Information has no respect for Supreme Court’s verdict which has clearly mentioned the names of persons which can be published in Govt advertisements but the same is not observed in state while releasing govt advertisements to newspapers which otherwise have always been selective. Department has no criteria to issue the Govt advertisements display in nature which have been so far issued at per the sweet will of distributor irrespective of the fact whether the newspapers deserves it or not. There is a system prevailing in department that if you want good advertisements you have to be in good books of distributor and if you fails to do so then, you will have to bear the wrath of distributor by cut shorting your advertisements leading to your survival crisis. Moreover advertisements are being released on commission basis which means that if your volume of govt advertisements is increased out of way, the distributor will have share in it. Govt advertisements covering big size photographs of Ministers are being released which is clear-cut violation of Supreme Court judgment dated 13-5-2015 violation. This shows that the department which has no regards for Supreme Court of India what regards it will have for small newspapers which are victims of irregular supply of Govt advertisements which is just like slow poison to kill them in shortest possible time. Moreover a committee was also framed by state Govt to look after proper implementation of Advertisement Policy but so far this committee has done nothing on ground surely to continue the unhealthy nexus which is being spearheaded by few newspapers with an aim to remain sycophants of Ministers and also to demoralize small newspapers. In this regard J&K Bank also following the footsteps of Department by releasing advertisements selectively and to those newspapers who have close relations with the Bank officials when it has 53% state share and is duty bound to equitable distribution of Govt advertisements. Similarly same is the case with other departments of Govt which follow the same procedure of distributing Govt advertisements only selectively. Discrimination is also being done with small newspapers with regard to invitation to cover important Govt functions as neither are they invited nor they are considered to cover such events thereby giving them 2nd class treatment which is huge injustice with such newspapers even after completing 70 years of independence. This seriously demoralizes the spirit of journalism and results in serious agony on part of such journalists who are denied permission to cover such events. This is also great insult to the capabilities and efficiency of such journalists who may be much more efficient to all those who were given opportunity to cover the event but deliberately denied permission so that their capabilities as journalist remain blocked. Moreover freelance journalist who are doing yeoman’s services are also not considered fit for coverage of such events which is great setback to their ambition to highlight social issues and also wrong doings of Govt. Unfortunate part of this whole episode is that concerned officials are well versed with prevailing scenario and doing nothing as most of them have nothing to do with journalism and grievances of journalists as a health Minister can’t take care of department properly including patients and doctors unless he himself is a doctor, same is the case with officials of department who are unable to give credit to good reporting and rebuking others for biased reporting. It is also unfortunate to note that despite Urdu being the state language has also been discriminated by Information department in distribution of advertisements as there is no criteria how to balance Govt advertisements to newspapers in English, Hindi and other languages resulting in total chaos and confusion among newspaper being published in different languages despite the fact that different kinds of newspapers have their own readers and have strong grip in their respective areas.