Press bodies decry selective reconstitution of 13th PCI

NEW DELHI Apr 8: Press bodies from across the country have expressed concern over the situation arising out of what they described as premeditated action of the chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI) in reconstituting the 13th Press Council of India.
A joint meeting of representatives of working journalists, editors, and owners of media houses was held at INS here on Saturday.
Representatives from various media organisations, including the All India Newspaper Editors’ Conference, the Indian Journalists’ Union, the Indian Newspaper Society, the Working News Cameramen Association, the Hindi Samachar Patra Sammelan, the National Union of Journalists (India), the All India Small and Medium Newspapers Federation, and the Press Association attended the meeting.
In a joint statement, the associations of the print media expressed grave concern over the procedure followed by the chairman while reconstituting the 13th PCI. It noted that the chairman overlooked precedence and adopted a process to keep out certain media associations and candidates.
‘This action of the chairman has cast serious doubts over the autonomy and neutrality of the PCI, which is mandated to preserve and protect the freedom of the press,’ the statement read.
It said that the chairman has called a meeting of the reconstituted PCI with only eight members – five MPs and three official nominees – out of 28 members, leaving out the rest of the representatives of the print media organisations, as their names are yet to be notified and the PCI reconstitution is still underway.
The Delhi High Court has stayed the nomination process.
The meeting demanded that the proposed meeting of the truncated Press Council must not be held and must be deferred till the full council is reconstituted.
The press bodies further demanded that the government intervene to restore the credibility and sanctity of the Press Council of India, stating that this would go a long way in ‘demonstrating the will of the government to protect and preserve the freedom of the press, vital to any democracy.’
The press bodies also discussed the recent reconstitution of the Central Press Accreditation Committee, and condemned the unilateral and arbitrary way the official notification on Central Press Accreditation Committee (CPAC), which did not include any representative from any association/union/organization, was issued, breaking a tradition of nearly 50 years.
Following the media advisory for nomination to the CPAC on the website of the Press Information Bureau (PIB), the associations/unions submitted all the documents to the PIB earlier this month. The PIB asked in writing for more documents, which were submitted, and accepted.
But the information & broadcasting ministry came out with a notification of the CPAC, from which all these associations/unions were excluded unilaterally. Barring that of one TV association, there is no representation from the photo journalists at all, nor anyone from outside New Delhi.
‘The present CPAC does not have a representative character to protect the interests of the journalists, and their collective voice has been excluded in the entire accreditation process,’ the press bodies said.
The unions/associations urged the Centre to include all such unions/associations in the CPAC. They also demanded that all the unions/associations/organizations which are in the panel of the PCI should also be part of the CPAC to give it a wider representation.