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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Chhattisgarh drafts law to protect journalists

Aiming to provide protection to journalists, Chhattisgarh draft Protection of Media persons Act makes their harassment a cognizable but bailable offence, with a jail term of up to one year for violators.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2019 03:42 IST
Ritesh Mishra
Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times, Raipur
Members of the committee that framed the draft said it also proposes the constitution of a media protection unit in every district. Image used for representational purpose.
Members of the committee that framed the draft said it also proposes the constitution of a media protection unit in every district. Image used for representational purpose. (Photo: AP)
         

Aiming to provide protection to journalists, Chhattisgarh draft Protection of Media persons Act makes their harassment a cognizable but bailable offence, with a jail term of up to one year for violators. Members of the committee that framed the draft said it also proposes the constitution of a media protection unit in every district.

The draft is likely to be submitted to the state government in November and will be finalised after discussion with the Press Council of India and Editor’s Guild of India, they said.

The proposed Act also provides up to one year for a “public servant” who neglects his responsibilities to protect journalists. The draft law, seen by HT, lists offences as cognizable and bailable, and has separate provisions for journalists working in Maoist-affected Bastar region of the state.

“We have also defined ‘media person’,”said a member of the drafting committee, who was not willing to be quoted. This, the member said, was because “many of the journalists working in Bastar region work for websites or are regarded as columnists, not journalists.”

As per the draft, anyone with at least six articles published in digital or print media in the last six months or one who has received payment for three articles in three months’ period from a media organisation is a media person.

Committee member Ruchir Garg who is also an adviser to chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said, “The primary process of discussing the bill/act is complete and now we have to discuss the final draft.”

As per data collected by journalist Kamal Shukla, since December 2018 when the Congress came to power in the state, 22 journalists have been booked under various sections of IPC and six journalists have been sent to jail. The state government does not have data on journalists booked in the state.

.BJP spokesperson Gauri Shankar Shrivas said, “The Congress government has no right to talk about journalist protection … In the last 10 months, they have booked over a dozen journalists. No one is speaking up because of the intimidation by government machinery.”

The Congress defended the Act. “We are committed to the protection of journalists in Chhattisgarh. The BJP is lying that we intimidate journalists in the state as we have always given respect to dissent and honoured it also,” said party spokesperson R P Singh.

While welcoming the proposed law, Raipur-based journalist Lalit Surjan said implementing it will be a challenge as there could be several frivolous complaints. “It would help genuine journalists in the conflict zone of Bastar as they need protection against harassment by government agencies. But in other areas, it will be difficult to justify harassment of journalists,” he said.