Eight media bodies have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and “set things right” in the Press Council of India (PCI) and the Central Press Accreditation Committee (CPAC) of the Press Information Bureau to ensure “restoration of the credibility and sanctity” of these vital institutions of the fourth estate, which have “recently come under a cloud”.
In a letter to PM Modi, eight media bodies representing editors, working journalists and media owners in the country urged him to “immediately intervene to defer the meeting of the truncated PCI on 11 April” as the re-constituted PCI now, they pointed out, comprises of “only 8 members ~ five MPs and three official nominees ~ of 28 members, leaving out representatives of the print media organisations, whose names are yet to be notified”.
In the joint letter dated 9 April, 2018, the eight media organisations also urged the PM to direct the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to “include representatives of journalists unions/associations (in the re-constituted CPAC), which have been kept out in clear violation of the guidelines”.
These eight media bodies include the Indian Newspapers Society (INS), Indian Journalists Union (IJU), All India Newspaper Editors Conference (AINEC), Working News Cameramen Association (WNCA), National Union of Journalists India (NUJ-I), Hindi Samachar Patra Sammelan, All India Small and Medium Newspapers Federation and Press Association.
Their letter to the PM said, “The procedure adopted for reconstituting the 13th PCI and the CPAC was arbitrary, which if not reversed, would gravely impact media freedom and access to information, critical to democracy,” charging that in their respective cases the PCI chairman Justice (retd) C K Prasad, as well as the I & B Ministry, have “chosen to brazenly do away with tradition and interpret the rules and guidelines”.
The media bodies told the PM that while undertaking the recent contitution of the 13th PCI the PCI chairman “overlooked precedent and adopted a process to keep out certain media associations and candidates” and that his “action has cast serious doubts over the autonomy and neutrality of the PCI, mandated to preserve and protect the freedom of the Press”.
Criticising the PCI chairman for still convening a meeting of the truncated PCI on 11 April, the eight media bodies told the PM that “holding of such a truncated meeting is unfair and goes against the spirit of the Press Council Act”.
Seeking the PM’s intervention in these matters in the way he recently intervened to get the I & B Ministry’s “fake news” order scrapped, the eight media bodies maintained that restoring the credibility of the PCI and the CPAC is essential for the sake of India’s free Press and vibrant democracy.