The Northeast India Federation of Journalists (NIFJ) on Saturday demanded all the State Govts of the region and its agencies concerned to ensure safety and security of journalists in their respective states besides immediate implementation of the obligatory Wage Board award.

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The NIFJ demanded this in a unanimous resolution passed during the first ever North East Journalists Conclave of the Federation held at the Dorjee Khandu State Convention Centre here. The day-long conclave was organized by the Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ) on behalf of the NIFJ.

The topics of discussion in the formal session of the Conclave included state of press freedom in NE India, facilities for media persons like pension, accreditation, wage board, insurance etc; regional cooperation between journalists and media houses, and gender council.

Calling upon the State Governments to enact laws in the model of Maharashtra Journalists Safety Act henceforth, encouraging the safety and security of the journalists besides other relevant aspects, the Federation at the same time expressed deep concern over non-implementation of the mandatory Wage Board award for the journalists in the NE region.

Despite the fact that several years have lapsed since the Central Govt declared the implementation of Wage Board award, it is disheartening to see the State Govts are least concerned about the same, the house observed.

Reacting to same, the Federation urged upon all the Govts in the region to implement the mandatory Wage Board award without any delay. The NIFJ also suggested the Govts to constitute a tripartite committee for implementation of the Wage Board.

Further, NIFJ also expressed concern that the State Govts in the region have by and large not extended various essential facilities like pension, health insurance, housing, transportation, etc to its journalists, the same which have already been introduced by various other progressive states in the country.

In this regard, the Federation appealed to the State Govts to enact amendments to the Working Journalists Act (WJA) in line with Delhi Govt’s recent amendment to the aforesaid Act so as to make compensation, punishment more stringent for the newspaper managements for violating the provisions of the Act.

The Federation also expressed great dismay over the ever growing attacks on scribes in the NE region by both state and non-state actors and expressed that this in turn affects the freedom of press and expression.

The NIFJ at the same time called upon the journalists and journalist organisations to follow media ethics and refrain from sensitive issues, especially in regards to border disputes which may further disturb the peace and fraternal relationship between two NE states.

The Federation also appealed to the community organisations, ethnic bodies, students and youth organisations etc to respect the freedom of media and freedom of expression. It stated the organisations can issue rejoinders to the media organisations concerned in case they are aggrieved by any news item published/aired in the media.

Also taking strong exception on the move of the Union Govt to amend the Citizenship Act so as to confer citizenship to all refugees belonging to the religious Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain communities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the NIFJ demanded that the Bill be scrapped.

“The Bill would jeopardise the survival and very existence of the small indigenous communities of the NE states,” the Federation opined.

Welcoming the Meghalaya Govt’s decision to oppose the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the NIFJ urged upon all the other State Govts to follow suit and oppose the Bill so as to safeguard the identity of its people.

Earlier while addressing the inaugural session of the Conclave as the chief guest, Chief Secretary Satya Gopal while hailing the journalists fraternity of the Northeast region as its brightest minds and the conscience keepers of the society besides being the protectors of democracy and freedom, hoped that the Conclave would be a proper platform to re-reaffirm the vital role that a free press and free media plays in democracy by throwing light on all aspects of life.

Also, stating that the role of the media as a watchdog is becoming an important facet today for fostering transparency, accountability, and dissemination of facts and information, the Chief Secretary, however, advised the journalists to be cautious of the risks of disinformation and of circulation of fake and concocted news.

Asserting that the present Govt led by Chief Minister Pema Khandu is determined and has sustained efforts to achieve transformational changes in almost all facets of governance, the CS added that journalists of Arunachal Pradesh are the most important members of the ‘Team Arunachal’ mantra as envisaged by the Chief Minister.

According to Gopal, the journalists community and the Govt has to walk hand in hand and collaborate as Team Arunachal, Team North East and Team India for achieving the mission of a New Arunachal, a New North Eastern Region and a New India.

“It is this constructive and synergetic relationship between the two that shall unlock the latent potential of the North East region,” Gopal said.

In his address, IPR Secretary Sonam Chombay, the guest of honor, called upon the scribes of the State in particular and North East in general to focus on the brighter stories of the region.

Highlighting the role of journalists in terms of the development of a state and region, he appealed to the media fraternity to work hand in hand with the Govt so as to develop the state and the region.

Speaking as special invitee, Indian Journalists Union (IJU) president S N Sinha said that his organization has always been laying special focus on the North East.

“Our aim is to make sure that North East region is well connected with rest of country and if the journalists of this region are connected well with the rest of India so the people of the region will be automatically connected,” Sinha said.

Further highlighting the roles and responsibilities of the IJU which is also affiliated to International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Sinha said his union would always fight for the right of the journalists, no matter what the situation is.

“The only motive of the IJU is to protect the rights of the journalists. We work like a pressure group and when we react the IFJ reacts,” he said.

Speaking on Wage Board, pension, medical insurance and other facilities for the journalists, Sinha opined that a strict implementing law should be there in place and the one’s not abiding by it should be penalized.

Earlier in his welcome address, APUWJ president Amar Sangno put forward the challenges faced by the journalists of State.

Sangno highlighted that the interference on editorial discretions by various organizations by intimidating working journalists was one of the pressing problems the media in the state has been facing for years.

Taking the opportunity, Sangno also stated that besides job insecurity, the working journalists in Arunachal are not subjected to various facilities like pension, medical insurance, etc that are extended by other state govts.

“Though the State Govt has introduced working journalists’ welfare fund, the access to the same is limited only to accredited journalists. The scribes in the state are still struggling to get basic benefits like healthcare facilities, accommodation during tours etc,” the APUWJ president said.

Also spoke on the occasion were IJU vice president Geetharta Pathak, NIFJ president Syed Sajjad Ali, who also chaired the two formal sessions, and his general secretary Bedabrata Lahkar.

The speeches of the guests were followed by an open discussion session during which topics like accreditation of journalists, their pension, insurance and facilities provided by the respective State Govts were discussed at length.

Representatives from Nagaland, Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Eastern Himalaya Journalists Union which represented the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) also shared their grievances, views and suggestions.

Among others present on the conclave were Arunachal Press Club president Chopa Cheda, general secretary Tanom Jerang, Arunachal Electronic Media Association president Mukul Pathak and APUWJ general secretary Ranju Dodum, who was also the host of the event.

The daylong North East Journalist Conclave also saw formation of a new committee of the NIFJ for the tenure of two years.

The new office bearers of the Federation include Syed Sajjad Ali (president), Amar Sangno (vice president), Asem Bhakta Singh (vice president), Bedabrata Lahkar (secretary general), Geetartha Pathak and Thomas Alex (advisors) and Sushmita Goswami (treasurer).

State wise executive members were also selected. They are: Taya Bagang (Arunachal Pradesh), Ngathingkhui Jagoi (Nagaland), Ashiko Pfuzhe (Nagaland), Pranab Sarkar (Tripura), Manosh Das (Meghalaya), Bhim Rawat (Sikkim), Rudra Karki (GTA), Ramkung Pamei (Manipur) and Rajesh Sharma (GTA).

To form a full-fledged Gender Council, NIFJ appointed Nivedita N Manpoong as the APUWJ State Gender Council convener.

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