IJU slams PCI chairman’s conduct

HYDERABAD/NEW DELHI, Aug 25: The Indian Journalists Union (IJU) and its three nominated members to the Press Council of India (PCI) have expressed shock at PCI Chairman CK Prasad’s blatant violation of the council’s rules, saying his conduct “has not only undermined the credibility of the institution but went against the primary aim of the institution in protecting the freedom of press.”
Noting the council’s affidavit seeking to intervene in a petition filed by the Kashmir Times in the Supreme Court, seeking removal of the restrictions on media in Jammu & Kashmir, the IJU said it was “astounded” that the affidavit, instead of supporting it, argued in favour of the ban “in the interest of integrity and sovereignty of the nation.”
In a statement, IJU President D Amar, Secretary-General Sabina Inderjit and the two PCI members, BS Jammu and M Majid, said the chairman should have consulted the council before approaching the Supreme Court “and spared members and the institution the grave embarrassment it has caused.”
They added that the chairman had chosen to ignore the members’ submissions on two other counts. “One, when some sitting PCI members along with former members approached him on 13 August to take suo moto notice of the restrictions on the media, and two, when working journalist members of the PCI urged the council to adopt a resolution calling upon the union government and the J&K administration to expeditiously restore communication facilities to media offices and journalists, during its full meeting held on 22 August.”
They said what was of serious concern was that, at the meeting, the chairman did not inform the council of the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court. They said this was in clear violation of Rule 8 of the Press Council (Procedure for Conduct of Meetings and Business) Regulation, 1979, which, while dealing with the powers of the chairman to take decisions in urgent matters, states: (1) The chairman may in his discretion, if urgent action by the council becomes necessary, take decision and permit the business of the council to be transacted by an order recorded in writing; and (2) The papers, together with the decision taken by the chairman, shall be placed before the next meeting of the council for confirmation.”
The IJU said it is incumbent upon the PCI chairman to explain the urgency in filing the affidavit which is against the mandate of the council.
“The chairman kept the council members in the dark by not seeking requisite approval at the meeting held on 22 August. The urgency,” the IJU said, “lay instead in reacting to the situation being faced by the media in Kashmir and preserving the freedom of the media.”
The IJU demanded that the chairman recall the affidavit and a fresh affidavit be filed in conformity with the PCI’s declared policy of upholding the freedom of the press.