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Orissa journalists declare forum to ensure press freedom

"From political leadership to the governments and the profit monger corporate houses in India, everybody with certain exercisable power or money to acquire people in power have been trying to delink the people-media interface by curbing media activism in public interest."

Sujata Mahapatra : December 18, 2009

‘Media makes and breaks a government’ is what people perceive. But with politics going dirty day by day, media has been the target of power manipulators. Targeting media is becoming a trend in most of the Asian countries including India where political corruption is growing without any bound. In the recent years, what have been used as tools to suppress media – the fourth estate – are banning media organisations in the name of national security or conspiracy or unethical practice of journalism; putting journalists behind bars by slapping charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy against the state or nation on them; or by condemning truthful investigative journalism in public interest as non-progressive and anti-development.

From political leadership to the governments and the profit monger corporate houses in India, everybody with certain exercisable power or money to acquire people in power have been trying to delink the people-media interface by curbing media activism in public interest.
 
As reaction to the harsh actions of the police administration against media professionals and indifferent attitude of the provincial government to such cases, Journalists of Orissa formed a forum and warned the State government and the police administration not to meddle with press freedom. In recent three months, there have been several cases where Police and administration has tried to harass the media professionals.

The new forum ‘Media Unity for Press Freedom’ (MUFP) organised a convention on December 14 to felicitate a rural Reporter Laxman Chaudhury who was arrested by the provincial police on charges like sedition, waging war against the State and criminal conspiracy but released on bail recently.

Chaudhury was arrested for his alleged link with Maoist rebels and remained in judicial custody for over two months before he was granted a bail by Orissa High Court.

Journalists who attended the convention also condemned the recent attack on another reporter Jagannath Bastia who was attacked by a group of hooligans in Puri a few weeks ago. The forum also criticised the Jharsuguda district administration for misbehaving with two journalists who were reporting series of farmers’ death in Orissa.

A series of resolutions were passed at the convention where it was decided that December 14 will be observed as Free Press Day by journalists across the State.

MUFP expressed gratitude to High Court lawyer and former President of the All India Bar Council Sri Jagannath Patnaik who went out of his way to fight for the release of Sri Laxman Choudhury without any professional fee and, also, thanked all lawyers, human rights activists, individuals and organizations, especially the Paris-based international body of journalists Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) who stood firmly to get Sri Choudhury out of jail.

Demanding immediate passing of necessary orders to ensure that prior to slapping charges such as sedition, waging war against the State and criminal conspiracy against any working journalist – whether accredited, self-employed or freelance – the concerned police officials must seek recorded approval of the state Home department, the forum also resolved to fight any attempt by the powers that be to muzzle or gag the press. It also resolved to pledge support and all possible help to anyone who faces attacks or threats in any form from any source while pursuing or performing his/ her professional duties as a news person.

To act as a common and online forum of journalists, MUFP resolved to launch under its own title i.e. Media Unity for Freedom of Press, a website that would serve as a common platform for journalists and those who defend and value press freedom by functioning as the watchdog of the free press and facilitate debate on issues, incidents and questions that have a bearing on freedom of press in particular.

There have been many unions and associations operating in the state with the objective of bringing journalists under their umbrella and working for the protection of rights of the member journalists. However, as it promises so far, NUFP will not work or become a union of journalists and create its affiliates but shall act as a forum and shall work for Press Freedom, protection of rights of journalists and ensuring a free press in the state.

 

 

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