New Delhi/Hyderabad 14 April: National journalists unions/associations expressed deep anguish and serious concern over developments in media that include suspension of publications, salary cuts and summery dismissals of working and non-working journalists in the wake of COVID 19 pandemic. In a statement today Press Association (PA), Indian Journalists Union (IJU), National Union of Journalists (NUJ-I) and Working News Cameramen’s Association (WNCA) described the media industry response to the nationwide lockdown as kneejerk reaction.
Into the third week of the lockdown Indian Express and Business Standard have asked staff to take salary cuts. TOI has sacked the entire Sunday magazine team. News Nation terminated 16 English digital employees. About half of the Quint team has been asked to go on leave without pay and it has closed its tech and auto section. India Today has prepared a list of 46 reporters, 6 cameramen and 17 producers who are being removed due to losses right away. A national news agency has released only 60 percent pay to the employees. ET Panache and Bombay Times are set to merge and Panache asked 50 percent staff to leave. There is news that Hindustan Times Marathi will close its operation from 30 April and all employees including Editor of HT Marathi have been told to go home. Urdu paper Nai Duniya and eveninger Star of Mysore suspended publication and Outlook has stopped print publication.
When the whole of industrial sector was being asked to adopt humane approach and not to stop payments to workforce during lockdown, this downsizing and salary cuts in media industry is most inconsiderate to put it mildly, the unions commented. They said it is not proper for the media houses into business for so many years with expansions and modernization, to suddenly claim financial helplessness. It is a fact that though media industry has registered lot of growth during the last few decades the expenditure component of news gathering has not seen corresponding growth indicating underpayment to journalists in India. Media houses that have been earning more profits thus are completely unjustified in shunning their responsibility towards their employees this early into a pandemic induced lockdown, although they face marketing and revenue problems, the unions said. If decades old big newspaper houses react this way it is difficult even to imagine the travails of small and medium newspapers.
The national unions urged the media houses to think collectively about various aspects of the crisis and find ways to surmount the difficult phase with minimal hardship to the workforce including working journalists. The unions also suggested the media houses to approach the Government for any possible succour during this hardship. The Indian media can’t afford to fail the society at this juncture when its services are needed most as the most reliable and responsible source of information, they averred. The signatories to the statement include Jaishankar Gupta, C.K. Nayak, President and General Secretary of PA; K. Sreenivas Reddy, Balwinder Singh Jammu, President and Secretary General of IJU; Rasbihari, Prasanna Mohanty, President and General Secretary of NUJ-I and SN Sinha and Sondeep Shankar President and General Secretary of WNCA respectively.