File image of Congress MP Manish Tewari | Photo: ANI via Lok Sabha TV
File image of Congress MP Manish Tewari | Photo: ANI via Lok Sabha TV
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New Delhi: Congress MP and former Union minister Manish Tewari has written a letter to Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, requesting that the ministry issue an advisory to all media outlets “to not retrench their employees and to pay their salaries on time”.

Tewari’s letter comes in the face of recent reports that journalists from leading English and Hindi media outlets were being let go due to the panic over the Covid-19 lockdown and its economic cost.

Tewari was Union minister of state with independent charge of information and broadcasting under the UPA-II government between 2012 and 2014, and said in his letter that the lockdown must not become an “excuse” for firing journalists.

“I do understand that these are tough times, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown cannot be an excuse for firing people considering that it has been only three weeks since the lockdown began,” he wrote.

Speaking to ThePrint, Tewari said: “My letter to Prakash Javadekar is not organisation-specific or news channel-specific. It is to flag, and try to stop, a broader trend across the industry which has been triggered.”


Also read: How providing an essential service made ThePrint’s journalist a prisoner in her hostel room


What media houses have done so far

There have been several reports of journalists being sacked or asked to take pay cuts in the last few days.

Outlook magazine has stopped its print publication. On 30 March, its editor-in-chief Ruben Banerjee put out a public note, stating: “We are announcing a temporary suspension of the print edition of Outlook magazine with immediate effect.”

Meanwhile, The Indian Express has asked employees to take pay cuts. On 1 April, in an email to employees, CEO George Varghese wrote: “Vendors are insecure, RWAs (Resident Welfare Association) are insecure, the rail, road and air lockdown has grounded distribution, businesses are shut down, we have been compelled to reduce print orders in all centres.”

On 10 April, Hindi News channel News Nation fired its entire English digital team of 15 journalists, despite the Narendra Modi government’s advisory urging public and private companies to not cut salaries or fire people during the lockdown.

A report by Newslaundry said the employees were neither given a notice of termination nor were they allowed to serve their notice period. Employees are being offered a month’s basic salary as severance. It also claimed that the News Nation editor-in-chief Manoj Gairola said: “The company is going through a financial crisis due to the pandemic so we have to do this.”

The Times of India has also allegedly sacked its entire Sunday magazine team. In a Facebook post, journalist Nona Walia claimed: “The entire team of Sunday magazine of Times of India asked to leave. Got a call from my boss Poonam Singh. Sacked after 24 years from a company I served with love for more than two decades. Wow.”

Moreover, about half the employees working at The Quint, a digital media website, have been sent on leave without pay. A newsroom note accessed by ThePrint stated: “We are forced to request you to proceed on a ‘furlough’ (ie, leave without pay, LWP) wef the 15th of April, until further notice. Your pay for the half-month, from April 1 through 15, shall be processed and released very soon.”

Hindustan Times Marathi will also allegedly close its operations from 30 April. However, this hasn’t been confirmed so far.


Also read: ‘Let media play its role’ — Editors Guild urges police not to impede journalists’ work


 

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2 Comments Share Your Views

2 COMMENTS

  1. Why would the Modi govt want to protect leftists journalists who are hell bent on destroying our cultural roots?
    Serves these anti cultural journalists right.

  2. The only sustainable way for job losses to be avoided is for the economy to be swiftly restored to health. Government stands as a majestic island where jobs are secure till the date of superannuation. The pay cuts government servants are accepting are an acknowledgment that even this fortress is not impregnable. Increasingly, at various levels of government – municipal corporations, in particular – contract labour is being used.

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