Journalism in Corona Crisis: ‘Plight of a Journalist’
Suicide in India has become a Public Health Crisis and the current scenario is alarming. Suicide has become one of the most common causes of deaths in the age group 15-39. It clearly states more and more young people are taking their life. In India, the cases have seen a sharp rise during the lockdown period. The most common reason behind suicide was ‘Financial Stress’. Every then and now, we come across news on suicides. Media keep reporting how people are taking their lives due to financial distress, personal problems or any other reason. But who will report about Journalists? Who will narrate their agony? The irony is, the industry which talks about everyone else, doesn’t talk about its own members. Mass layoffs and salary cuts have put journalists under extreme pressure.
(Journalists during Corona Crisis)
Many journalists have committed suicide in the last 5 months, but we aren’t talking about them? It is heartbreaking to see that the media industry isn’t vocal about its own members. According to a report in Newslaundry, labour law violations in the other sector find spaces in newspapers, news media find themselves in precarious jobs as we don’t report on our own industry. According to reports, many national and regional channels have laid off their employees during the lockdown period.
Let us look at the figures:
HT Media laid off over 100 employees
ET Gujarati got shut and the entire team was terminated.
Around 50- 60 employees were laid off from Sakal Times
The Telegraph laid off 35 employees, and the list goes on. Media groups like Times of India, NDTV , The Hindu have laid off employees, and extensive salary cuts have been done.
Figures Source: Newslaundry
A lot of the journalists were informed about the same over a phone call, email or on a video call. Employees who have worked with the outlets for years were shown doors. Employees were either asked to accept the offered terms or to be terminated.
“I gave my best. Amid the fear of COVID 19, I stepped out and covered the stories. Met the deadlines, worked for long hours. In return, I got an email stating my services are no longer required. My family is dependent on me, keeping in mind the current scenario, the future seems to be uncertain.” (Name not disclosed on request)
( They didn’t Stop)
This is just one journalist talking about his plight. There are many who are going through the same. They have no clue what will happen next? Some are coping but some gave up. Many journalists took their own life during corona crisis. Recently, Rohit Shrivastav, a resident of Varanasi, who was working with a leading news channel as a Journalist died by suicide on August 12. According to his family members, he was terminated from his services.
Apart from him, a senior journalist PV Ramanujan died by suicide on August 13. Before that, in July, Tarun Sisodia, who was being treated at AIIMS jumped from the hospital building. According to reports, he was troubled by the uncertainty of the lockdown and feared that he would lose his job. Well, there were reports of the conspiracy too in this case. Well, enquires have been launched to investigate the case further.
Ranjita Rabha, an Assamese TV Journalist was pregnant at the time of the lockdown. On May 10, she was suddenly asked to resign. Notably, she was associated with the brand from the past 10 years.
Basically, people who report on mass layoffs and suicides are themselves are in mental distress. And this reminds me of an unsaid rule -“Thou shall not report on the ecosystem you’re a part of, and name or call out any other outlet.”
(let us be more vocal about their issues)
To understand the situation, we got in touch with the Founder of Pal Pal News Khushboo Akhtar. She is an unapologetic independent journalist, and here is what she said about the issue.
जब हम सुसाइड की बात कर रहे है तो आपको बता दूँ अब तक दुनिया में लॉकडाउन के दौरान एक मिलियन से ज़्यादा लोग आत्महत्या कर चुके हैं सुसाइड अपने आप में Judge mental word है क्योंकि सुसाइड करने वाला अपनी परेशान दुनिया से छुटकारा पाने के लिये ये रास्ता चुनता है और ये समाज उसे कमजोर और न जाने क्या क्या तमग़े देता हैं और फिर भूल जाता है।
विश्व स्वास्थ्य संगठन (डब्लुएचओ) के एक रिपोर्ट के अनुसार, हर वर्ष दुनिया में 800000 लोग आत्महत्या की वजह से मरते है, जिसके अनुसार लगभग हर 40 सेकेन्ड में एक व्यक्ति की मृत्यु होती है। राष्ट्रीय अपराध रिकार्ड ब्यूरो (एनसीआरबी) के अनुसार भारत में वर्ष 2005 से 2015 के बीच में आत्महत्या करने वालों में 17.3 प्रतिशत की बढ़ोत्तरी हुई है।
अब बात करते हैं मीडिया में लगातार जा रही नौकरी की वैसी नौकरियाँ हर क्षेत्र में जा रही है मगर मैं मीडिया से हूँ तो इसी की बात करूँगी। मीडिया एक चमक दमक वाली industry दिखाई ज़रूर देती है पर इसमें काम करने वाले जानते हैं बड़ी- बड़ी जगहों पर भी मेहनताना ठीक से नहीं मिलता तो छोटे संस्थानों का तो क्या कहना मीडिया में अब तक पाँच लाख से ज़्यादा कर्मचारी नौकरी से हाथ धो बैठे हैं पर बीते दिनों टीवी नाइन के कई कर्मचारियों को पाँच -पाँच महीने की तनख़्वाह रोक रखी थी जिसके चलते टीवी 9 के कैमरामैन ने भी आत्महत्या की पर उसकी कोई चर्चा नहीं हुई
आर्थिक संकट भी जीवन से हाथ धो लेने का एक अहम कारण है क्योंकि आप काम करें या न करें जीवन की ज़रूरत ठीक वैसे ही बनी रहती है मीडिया का एक बड़ा तबका जब पत्रकारिता छोड़ चाटुकारिता में व्यस्त हो तब भी Survival के लिये आपको पैसे की ही ज़रूरत पड़ती है और मदद एक टाइम के बाद लोग करने से बचते है तो इंसान ख़ुद को ख़त्म कर परेशानियों से आज़ाद हो जाना चाहता है।
अंत में यही कहूँगी कि सुसाइड एक गंभीर विशेष है जिस पर घण्टों बात की जा सकती है पर अगर किसी के दिमाग़ में इस तरह के ख़्याल आते हों तो वे इन्सान अपनी परेशानी के बारे में किसी अपने रिश्तेदार या दोस्त से बात करे और उसकी बातों से यह पता चलता है कि वह आत्महत्या करना चाहता है, तो यह उस इन्सान की जिम्मेदारी हो जाती है कि वह उस परिस्थिति को समझे और समय रहते अपने मित्र और रिश्तेदार को किसी मनोचिकित्सक की सलाह लेने को कहे.
(When we are talking about Suicides. Let me tell you 1 million people have died by Suicide during the lockdown. Suicide is a judgemental word and people do judge the person who dies by suicide. According to a report by WHO, 8 million people die by suicide every year. As per NCRB, the number of suicide cases in India has seen a sharp rise of 17.3 per cent between 2005- 2015. Talking about the media industry, around 5 lakh journalists have lost their jobs. This puts them under extreme pressure. A couple of days back, a cameraperson of TV 9 committed suicide. Notably, the employees were not paid for the last five months. The financial crisis is one of the main reasons why people take such an extreme step. It is a public health crisis and we need to talk more about it. If anyone of you gets such thoughts, talk to your friends and family.)
Why it is important to come together as a fraternity?
Our lack of coverage makes it easier for media owners and proprietors to treat their employees like gig workers.
Are there any laws to protect journalists?
There is an act to protect journalists, which was incorporated in the year 1955. The Working Journalists And Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions Of service) And Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955. But it is only for journalists working with print media. The law was enacted in the year 1950s and is yet to be extended to TV, radio and digital media.
Shockingly, a lot of journalists are not aware of the act. The act provides crucial protections for journalists against arbitrary termination, and even to journalists who work on contracts.
The act should be extended to TV and digital medium too as it is need of the hour. With a lack of any other law, it should be extended to journalists who are working for TV & digital media.
(Journalist on duty)
Journalists also get exploited! The only difference is that others get space on the front page of dailies, but nobody reports the plight of a journalist. There are two major reasons behind are: Lack of reporting & lack of laws. Both are the need of the hour.
They worked as Corona Warriors, they stepped out to report stories and their rights must be protected. What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
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