Why are we going to this man?

BY hoot| IN Opinion | 02/02/2008
One of Sen’s past employers, the Hindustan Times, sacked an editor last year. We did not see him head for the minister for information and broadcasting.
A HOOT editorial

Last year, when the government was trying to sell a broadcasting bill which would allow the ministry of information and broadcasting to regulate TV news channels, there was an outcry. This year, when the company which owns a news channel  has a spat with its editorial head and they part ways, journalists whom he brought in are sacked and who do they march to for justice?  The Minister for Information and Broadcasting. Ironical, isn¿t it?


On the morning of February 2nd the Indian Express reports that there has been an unusual fallout of the spat between News X, the yet to be launched TV new channel from INX Media, and Vir Sanghvi who was heading he channel until a few days ago. The channel apparently dismissed some of the journalist he hired, and the channel¿s executive editor Avirook Sen who was one of them, led them to the Minister P R Dasmunsi to  complain about injustice and shocking treatment.


Mr D lost no time in issuing a pompous statement:   

"Keeping in view the independence and autonomy of the Media, neither the Government nor the Ministry ever interferes and shall not intervene in the internal affairs or administration of any media house or channel. But the manner in which the eminent Editors have been treated and the rights of media personnel have been reportedly infringed upon is really a matter of great concern for free and fair journalism in the country. Minister has been apprised of the serious allegations including source of channel funding which Minister is not competent to react, and accordingly, has referred the matter to the concerned desk of the Finance Ministry to ascertain the facts through their investigation wing.

Minister makes an appeal to all media channels that whenever any media personnel is engaged on some contract, their contractual terms should be valued and honoured including the financial clauses. Otherwise, hire and fire mechanism shall not provide honour and confidence to the engaged media personnel in the country, wherever they may be".


Sen also told the Indian Express that he also had plans to take legal action against the channel.  May we suggest that that was the course he should have taken in the first place? 


Lets look at this incident a little closely. According to the Express Sen had differences with the management which led to their demanding his resignation and depriving him of his car laptop and email id with immediate effect. The company released a statement leveling charges against him. What Sen and others who went with him to the minister carried however was also a complaint about "serious allegations" regarding the channel¿s source of funding. 


Did concerns about the sources of the channel¿s funding disturb its senior editorial employees enough to lead them to quit before they were sacked?


Editors and senior journalists have been sacked before. One of Sen¿s past employers, the Hindustan Times, sacked an editor last year. We did not see him head for the minister for information and broadcasting. Not a few media eyebrows will rise at this latest development. Admittedly going to the Press Council yields no immediate remedial action. But in the absence of a regulator with more teeth the recourse for any perceived injustice from a media employer should surely be the courts? 


These are not wage board employees, but private contractual people who benefit from the market logic which governs the media these days.  For many, a job shift means a doubling of salary. If there are pitfalls that go with it, it does not become a freedom of press issue that should concern the government, whatever Mr Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi may say.