BENGALURU, Jul 8: The national executive committee meeting of the Indian Journalists Union (IJU) held here in Karnataka on 6 and 7 July expressed deep concern at the imposition of a crippling 10 percent duty on paper used by newspapers and magazines in the central budget.
The IJU leadership said the hardship comes at a time when the print media are facing stiff competition from digital media and advertising is low, and observed that the duty would “wipe out whatever hopes there were for the revival of small and medium print media.”
The IJU said “the duty on newspapers is actually duty on the readers’ right to read what they want to read without any interference from the government. But this duty will tax information and knowledge, and inflict a serious wound on the freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the constitution of India.”
It said freedom of speech “is not only for publishers, writers and journalists but also for everyone as the key to opening windows for knowledge and innovation, and challenging the stagnation to ensure the progress of the economy and the society.”
The IJU described the duty as “unfortunate” as it comes at a time when the newspapers are looking for some assistance from the government to tide over the financial problems due to declining advertisement revenues and increasing expenses.
“English newspapers that get good advertising support from the government and private industries in the form of display and tender advertising can perhaps absorb this hike, but the tiny, medium and moderate-sized language newspapers that now are spread all over the country will suffer the most,” the journalists’ union said.
Demanding that the government withdraw the tax immediately, the IJU said the hike should not be influenced by the demands of newsprint manufacturers. “This increase in duty will enable the local manufacturers to increase prices and affect every newspaper and magazine,” it said.
India’s largest representative working journalists organization also expressed grave concern at the attitude of the central and some state governments in excluding journalist unions from accreditation and other committees relating to journalists constituted by the governments.
“The Centre has not done anything about including journalists’ bodies in the Central Press Accreditation Committee in spite of its assurances to the IJU,” it observed.
It said the same is happening in some of the states in constituting accreditation and other welfare committees by the government.
“The IJU is surprised to observe that the Assam government has been selecting journalists of its liking by handpicking them for government-organised press tours. The IJU demands immediate representation of journalist unions in all journalists-related committees by the governments,” it said.