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Mumbai: Defending press freedom in age of social media

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Mumbai: Voicing concern over the safety and financial security of journalists in India, Justice CK Prasad, the chairman of Press Council of India (PCI), on Tuesday said the government must draft a policy for the protection of scribes. He urged the Mumbai Press Club and journalists to compel the government both at the state and Centre. He also urged the governments to set up a fund for scribes.

Justice Prasad was speaking at ‘Defending Press Freedom in Digital Age’ organised by Mumbai Press Club. “The journalists’ work risks have increased these days. When journalists are attacked, their safety and independence is the first priority,” he said.

He announced the PCI has served notice to Tata Sons for attacks on photojournalists on November 4. “I have sent suo moto notices to Tata Sons at the Bombay House headquarters and asked them to submit a report on the attacks on photojournalists. We have seen the evidence in which they were brutally attacked,” said Justice Prasad.


There was a panel discussion on safety of scribes, the precautions to be taken, and paid news. The panel comprised Justice Prasad, SN Sinha, member of Press Council and President of Indian Journalists Union (IJU), K Amarnath, member of Press Council and Convenor of PCI’s Safety Committee, Brijesh Singh, head of Maharashtra’s information and publicity department, Kumar Ketkar, retired editor, and Gurbir Singh, former chairman, Press Club, Mumbai.

Sinha told media persons, “The government must strengthen the Working Journalist Act as it protects everything. Protection for journalists is important because only if journalists are free in this country can our democracy be protected.”

Speaking of PCI’s responsibility in intervening for protection of scribes, Amranath said the PCI has begun sending notices on their own. “After Jyotirmay Dey’s murder, we started the campaign for a law protecting journalists. I urge all of you to make this a movement.”

The speakers expressed fears of social media and lack of any control on it. They stated cases of journalists who have written pieces but have been threatened online. Brijesh Singh said social media has replaced the traditional media in setting the agenda. “Our neighbouring country has a team that tracks trending tweets and while some write the truth, we need to keep in mind national interests. I think some introspection is necessary, responsibility of the journalist to ensure no transgression,” said Singh.

When Singh was asked about a new law to protect journalists, he said it is being worked out, though like bureaucrats are not protected, but their work is protected, likewise the media too needs to allow an act where their articles are protected.