The International Federation of Journalists today issued a challenge to the Government of India to provide a strategic vision of the future of the country’s media in the face of what it describes as a “growing and profound” crisis within Indian journalism.
In a letter to the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the IFJ says that action is urgently needed to manage the dramatic expansion of media, which local unions says is putting unprecedented pressure on journalism.
“The information landscape in India is changing dramatically, but not all of these changes will benefit Indian values of press freedom, social justice, democracy and diversity unless regulators properly manage the process,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said in his letter.
The IFJ’s affiliates in India – the National Union of Journalists (India), the Indian Journalists’ Union and the All India Newspaper Employees Federation – warn that media working conditions are deteriorating and thousands of journalists exist in perilous employment conditions.
“There is the unrestrained expansion of the audiovisual and new media sectors but without a comparable rise in investment in editorial training or quality journalism,” said White. “There are fears that excessive commercialism is undermining standards.”
The IFJ claims that press freedom and pluralism are suffering as a result.
“Morale in journalism is low and as a result professionalism and standards are put at risk,” White said.
The crisis requires a new approach from government, says the IFJ, including “a vision of the future that will show that the government is committed to a stronger, more diverse media economy.” At present the IFJ says there is “a rush to exploit the material potential of media without any serious analysis or consideration of the potential impact.”
In particular, the IFJ warns that the transformation of the employment landscape in media amounts to “a form of modern bondage in which individuals, without a shred of bargaining power, are subject to increasing exploitation.”
The majority of Indian media now use individual employment contracts to undermine journalists’ right to decent working condition and to destroy the traditional wage board system which sets minimum standards.
The IFJ says the government has dragged its feet over establishing wage boards for the newspaper industry.
“It is now three years since the boards should have been constituted and further delay is intolerable,” said White.
The IFJ is calling on the Indian government to amend the Working Journalists Act as well as industry-wide wage board arrangements to take account of changes in media and to create a social partnership that will put Indian media “back on track.”
“All journalists, whether working in print, radio, television, agency, online or even as independent freelances, should have access to the benefits of legislation which properly define minimum conditions of work. Existing laws should be amended accordingly,” said White.
The IFJ is calling for balance between public and commercial values in media development and is appealing to the government to carry out “an immediate review of media policy and action with the intention to reassert the values of pluralism, press freedom and the people’s right to know and to restore basic rights at work.”
To read the IFJ letter to Prime Minister Singh click here.
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries