People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 01

January 02, 2011



Leaks Expose US Pressures, Media Corporate Lobbies


JOURNALISTS, academics and politicos recently demanded a new information order to bring real India into focus and to prevent the media from acting as watchdogs of status quo. The demand came from a well attended meeting of the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) and the Delhi Media Centre for Research and Publications Trust (DMCT) on December 23. There was also the call for a united front on ethical issues in the profession, while fighting for fair wages to the entire staff in the print and electronic media.


The three hour long meeting discussed the burning issues like the WikiLeaks, Radia tapes, paid news syndrome threatening our democracy, and the scams affecting the country. The meeting resolved to have a new journalist alliance to fight for an alternative information order and to fight for a meritorious Media Council in place of the existing Press Council which sought to protect the vested interests behind the paid news syndrome. The DUJ pointed out that reports on the paid news syndrome were censored even though more and more meetings were taking place on the subject. News about journalists’ unions and the trade unions in general were brazenly being censored.


In a hard hitting speech, veteran journalist Prem Shankar Jha said alternative avenues were now open: the Internet was a powerful tool, especially when efforts were made to black out news. This was the case with Radia tapes. This “closed system” that “cuts off” access of the honest and idealistic to the political system is now under challenge. Recent electoral verdicts also established that now people were not randomly throwing out governments because of the anti-incumbency factor but were re-electing governments that performed.


Dr John Cherian of Frontline said in his paper that spearheaded by the Obama administration, the continuing harassment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a desperate attempt to silence the group. The recent leak of diplomatic cables by the WikiLeaks has caused the so far greatest embarrassment to Washington. Its diplomats, from the secretary of state Hilary Clinton to sundry ambassadors across the globe, have been shown as being alternatively vainglorious, interfering and foolhardy in their appraisals of other countries and their leaders.


CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said the WikiLeaks provided an insight into the US pressures and machinations. What has been revealed so far is only the tip of the iceberg. When the full range of some 2,000 cables sent by the US Embassy in Delhi to the State Department in Washington comes in the public domain, Karat said, a full picture of “the degree of cooperation between India and the United States” will come into view. There were references in the WikiLeaks to India explaining to the US the “transit stop” here by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2008. This clearly established that the Americans did not like that visit and demanded (and got) an explanation from India. The leaked cables referred to the US stopping India's export of graphite to Iran and the cancellation of an Indian company’s project in Iran, Karat noted. On the nuclear deal issue --- on which the Left withdrew support to the first UPA government —Karat said it might be true that the US was not able to get contracts worth billions of dollars of as a result of the agreement, but “it was a quid pro quo” for a close “strategic alliance partnership in defence.” The 10-year India-US defence framework agreement was signed before the nuclear deal.


CPI leader D Raja said the WikiLeaks had shown “India's tilt towards the US in our foreign policy.” This was exactly the point the Left parties made when they withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh government.


Veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta gave insights into the paid news syndrome and highlighted the positive aspects of the Radia tape exposes.


DUJ general secretary S K Pande spotlighted the necessity of widest possible unity on ethical issues in the media while intensifying the struggle for fairer wages in the entire industry. He demanded a White Paper into the status of the media, especially the journalists, during globalisation, because more and more unfair labour practices were taking place and jungle law has replaced the Working Journalists Act through contracts of bondage. On the current Wage Board discussions, he regretted that what was being offered was a pittance. The silver lining was that more than a dozen press bodies met in the capital on the December 17-19 on the golden jubilee of the All India Newspaper Employees Federation (AINEF) and urged for a united front with the DUJ and other bodies for fairer wages. Simultaneously, under the banner of the Confederation of Newspaper and News Agencies Employees Organisations, journalists and press bodies decided to put up a united front, to begin with, at the wage board level. On December 18, leaders of more than 150 press and journalist associations met at the DUJ office to express grave concern at what was happening in the media through contracts of bondage, mass retrenchments, blatant violations of the Working Journalist Act and even contempt of the Wage Board. Even while the Wage Board has started its work, journalists are being sacked; even contract journalists are being thrown out during the contract period. A united front is the need of the hour, he added.


DUJ president Sujata Madhok cautioned against all attempts to shoot the messenger. DUJ speakers condemned the vicious vilification campaign to silence the WikiLeaks., WikiLeaks and Assange have shown how hollow is the claim of free speech in certain countries that claim to be liberal democracies.


Among those present on the occasion was Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer, one of the key exposers of the Radia tapes. A paper by media analyst Dilip Mandal was also circulated.


A DUJ resolution at the meeting demanded an all-spectrum Media Council in place of the toothless Press Council and also a Media Commission to look into all aspects of the media under globalisation. Noting that facilities already given were being withdrawn which also was a violation of law, the meeting urged the Wage Board for journalists and press workers to get out of outdated wage structures, and help save journalism for tomorrow by ending the contracts of bondage. It further demanded extension of the Working Journalists Act 1955 to the entire news industry as well as risk insurance cover and proper pension for journalists.