Journalists take out rally against suppression of free press

ITANAGAR, Sep 1: The journalists of Arunachal Pradesh under the aegis of the Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ) took out a massive rally here on Saturday to protest the ever-increasing restrictions being imposed on the freedom of the press, and against speeches by leaders of the Centre and some state governments.
The rally, which was taken out to support the call of the Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) against the atrocities meted to journalists and media houses, the killing of journalists, and intolerance of state and central governments, saw the protestors march from Aakashdeep to the Arunachal Press Club, carrying placards and shouting slogans demanding protection of the rights of the media.
The demands of the IJU, which include constitution of a meaningful and independent media council of India, introduction of pension scheme for journalists, implementation of the Majithia Wage Board recommendations, safety and security of journalists, etc, were later highlighted by APUWJ President Amar Sangno, who addressed the gathering at the press club after the rally.
Sangno, who was quite vocal about the “central government’s attempt to suppress media through management,” said, “Over the years, India has been thumping its chest and claiming that it is the largest democracy of the world; however, if one goes through the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, the ranking of India has slipped down to 138, which is depressing.”
Denouncing the continuous attacks on journalists and media houses by the government, he said the central and state governments are intolerant when it comes to protecting the freedom of the press.
“The government’s attempt to muzzle free media is like attacking the basis of democracy. Pressurizing media houses and independent journalists to conform to the diktats of the ruling dispensation not only weakens the foundations of democracy in the country but also violates the freedom of expression and the people’s right to know as guaranteed under the Constitution,” said Sangno.
APUWJ General Secretary Ranju Dodum said, “Without a free press, no real democracy can exist. The work that we do as journalists and media persons is essential for the functioning of a democracy.”
Dodum also stressed the dire need to enact the Working Journalists’ Protection (WJP) Act by all the state governments, so as to protect journalists from being soft targets and face violence.
Informing that Maharashtra is the only state in India where an act to protect the rights of working journalists has been passed, Dodum said the WJP Act should also be enacted in Arunachal Pradesh to ensure the safety of journalists, who often face daunting situations.
Also to speak on the occasion were senior journalists PK Behera and Taro Chatung, and Rajiv Gandhi University Associate Professor, Dr Nani Bath.
The APUWJ will be submitting a memorandum to Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Monday, demanding enactment of the WJP Act, introduction of pension scheme for working journalists, and implementation of the Majithia Wage Board recommendations in the state.
Exemption of journalists from toll and parking taxes, and accommodation for accredited journalists at government guest houses are the other demands of the union.
Among others, Arunachal Electronic Media Association President Mukul Pathak, Arunachal Civil Society chairman Patey Tayum, Arunachal Students’ Union Delhi general secretary Dewan Natung, and Consumer Rights Organisation state president Achu Bagang were present in Saturday’s rally.