Journalist associations condemn order prohibiting distribution of newspapers in Maharashtra
Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
Several top media bodies and prominent journalists have opposed the state government order prohibiting distribution of newspapers in Maharashtra.
The Maharashtra Union of Working Journalists, Nagpur Union of Working Journalists and several such institutions have demanded immediate withdrawal of the state goverment advisory and order to stop door-to-door delivery of newspapers and magazines.
The chief secretary of the state, Ajoy Mehta, had issued the order, stating that till now the print media was exempted from the lockdown, however, given the extent of the spread of Covid 19, "...the door to door delivery of newspaper and magazines is prohibited".
The journo bodies have issued a statement, unequivocally and strongly condemning it.In a press statement, the President of MUWJ and Press Club Pradip Maitra, the President of NUWJ Shirish Borkar and NUWJ General Secretary and Press Club Secretary Bramhashankar Tripathi and the office-bearers said that the state government order amounted to a systematic attempt to kill the print media in these tough times.
"People look for news and information that affects their lives and find newspapers as the most authentic source. It is nothing short of sounding a death knell for the enormously reliable source of information dissemination and news happenings, impacting everyone’s life.
This order tantamounts to gag on media freedom which will affect the entire print media industry and state’s illustrious, hard-working journalist fraternity that is relentlessly work in the field to share happenings with the readers even in life-threatening scenarios". "The state government order against door to door delivery of newspapers and magazines is preposterous and apparently made without application of mind.
Amid rumours by some selfish-interests terming newspapers as potential Coronavirus carriers, the MUWJ, NUWJ and Press Club must clarify that newspapers are categorised as SAFE not just by the Government of India but even the World Health Organisation (WHO). Nevertheless, the government seems to be ignoring even the WHO findings and guidelines".
The statement says that the unprecedented Corona pandemic and the consequent nationwide lockdown is bleeding the print media already. The state government’s above mentioned order will only aggravate the situation in an already beleaguered industry. Media personnel and newspapers are a necessity for the people and hence were kept in the list of essential items exempted in the lockdown.
"Any attempt to gag or paralyse the fourth pillar of democracy will only weaken the institution apart from loss of faith in the system and judiciousness of the authorities who apparently took the decision without any scientific attribution", it further reads.
"Freedom of the press is mandatory in any democratic society and crucial tenet for its effective functioning and governments are required to respect this at all times. Hence, the MUWJ, NUWJ and the Press Club demand that the government should withdraw the order immediately and ensure unhindered and smooth supply of newspapers and magazines to each and every household".