Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955

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By Sweta das

Though media plays a dominant role in our day to day life, do we really aware of what laws and acts are acquired for the rights of journalists and newspaper employees? A large number of persons are employed in various news papers and periodicals being published in India. The Government of India constituted the Press Commission to enquire into the conditions of employment of working journalists. In the guidance of the Press commission to rectify and regulation of such service conditions, the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill was initiated in the Parliament. Thus The Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act 1955 was enacted keeping in view some welfare measures for the working journalists. This article will upskill the reader about the welfare measures which are provided in the Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act 1955 along with the administrative machinery under the act.

Who is actually Working Journalist as per the act? Under the provision of this act, “ Working Journalist” means a person whose principal advocation is that of a journalists and who is employed as such , either whole time or per time, in or in relation to one or more newspaper establishment and includes an editor, a leader writer, news editor, feature writer, copy tester, reporter, correspondent, cartoonist, news photographer and proof reader, but it does not include any person who is employed mainly in a managerial or administrative capacity or employed in a supervisory capacity.

Ethics of Journalism Ethics are norms for conduct that distinguish between an acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It is concerned with what is right or wrong, good or bad, fair or unfair, responsible or irresponsible, obligatory or permissible, praiseworthy or blameworthy. Ethics and standards of journalism comprise the principles of ethics and of good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by the professional journalists. Historically and currently, these set of ethical standards are widely known to journalists as their professional “code of ethics”. In recent years it has almost become a norm that most renowned professional journalism associations and individual print, broadcast, and online news organisations have come out with their own set of basic codes on ethics to serve the society. The fundamental objectives of these ethical codes of journalism is to serve the people with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest in a fair, accurate, unbiased, sober and decent manner. Towards this end, the Press is expected to conduct itself in keeping with certain norms of professionalism universally recognised. These universally recognised norms are expected to apply with due discernment and adaptation to the varying circumstance of each case which definitely will help the journalists to self-regulate their conduct. There are various organisations and associations world over related o journalists and most of these associations have their own set of code of ethics. The principles of Journalistic codes of ethics of these national and international associations are designed as guides through numerous difficulties to assist journalists in dealing with ethical dilemmas. The codes and canons provide the journalists a framework for self-monitoring and self-correction as they pursue professional assignments. In India we have Editor’s Charter, 1953 adopted by All India Newspaper Editor’s Conference (AINEC), AINEC Code of Ethics, 1968 to cover communal incidents, Press Council Code, 1954, Press Council Code on Communal Matters, 1969, National Integration Council (NIC) Code, 1962 and Parliamentary Code of Ethics, 1976 adopted by Rajya Sabha for journalists and newspapers regarding their social and moral responsibility. While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements and these include the principles of — truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, dignity, fairness, public accountability and humanity — as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information. Let us explain these principles in detail:

Truthfulness: This principle extends from honesty, good faith, and sincerity of a journalist in general, to the fact or reality in particular. However, truthfulness may conflict with many other values. Salacious details of the lives of public figures is a central content element in many media. This type of publication is not necessarily justified simply because the information is true. Journalists need to keep in mind that Privacy is also a right. Revelation of military secrets and other sensitive government information may be contrary to the public interest, even if it is true. Photo journalists who cover war and disasters confront situations which may shock the sensitivities of their audiences. For example, human remains are rarely screened. The ethical issue is how far should one risk shocking an audience’s sensitivities in order to correctly and fully report the truth.

Accuracy: Accuracy is much more than simply making sure you quote someone correctly or spell their name right. It also means that journalists put their words and opinions in the proper context. It means that you report on people and events as truthfully as possible. Journalists should not tidy up what happened to fit neatly into whatever angle you or your editor might want the story to take. It means, the report is not tainted by whatever personal feelings a journalist might have about the selected subject or people.

Objectivity: Journalists and the public often tend to identify objectivity in its absence. Objectivity is a significant principle of journalistic professionalism, especially in the United Kingdom and United States. Journalistic objectivity can refer to fairness, disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship, but most often it encompasses all of these qualities.

Impartiality: The journalistic principle of impartiality holds that decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the benefit to one person over another for improper reasons

Fairness: Journalists should be careful about the fact that reporting about an incident is made objectively and that it is free from political influence or personal favouritism. They should see whatever they are writing should be fair to the people written about. The portrayal of thoughts and words should be fair and should not be adulterated in some way or the other. The journalist should himself feel comfortable reading his own story to the people involved. One of the biggest compliments a journalist can receive is being called tough but fair by someone he has written about in an uncomplimentary way.

Public Accountability: With the principle of public accountability come such as answerability, responsibility, blameworthiness, liability and other terms associated with the expectation of account-giving. Public accountability of journalists means the obligation of journalist to explain and report publicly, fully and fairly, before and after the fact, how they are carrying out responsibilities that affect the public in important ways.Their report about an incident should validate their fairness and completeness. In a way journalists have an obligation to explain and to justify his or her reporting.

Dignity: The dignity of the people a journalist writes about is very important. So is the dignity of readers and newspaper. That does not mean that someone is not an aggressive journalist, but it means that he does not take cheap shots. Most hard-hitting stories are strengthened when the reporter shows respect toward the people or institutions under examination.

Humanity: It is the principle of being humane. In the movie Absence of Malice there is a great scene where a wise old city editor talks about being a reporter. He says that he knows how to report the news and how not to hurt people, but he doesn’t know how to do both at the same time. The best journalism usually hurts someone, often without meaning to do so. Humanity means not hurting the innocent or those who have no idea what they are getting into when they talk to a reporter. Good journalists have a special responsibility when it comes to the common masses.

The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. Ethics form the foundation on which is built the basic social contract that has to exist between the credible journalist and the public he or she serves. The stronger that foundation, the stronger are the ties between writer and reader. But that strong foundation is rarely obvious to the reader, or for that matter to the writer. Ethics almost always remains in the background, usually becoming evident only when there is a problem.

The first press commission found that the payment received by the journalists were not at all adequate. The commission felt it is requisite to impose minimum wages for journalist employees and made recommendations relating to the minimum wage to be paid to them. The Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act 1955 made the Industrial disputes act 1947 applicable to working journalists. The act also made the industrial employment (standing orders)acts 1946 and the employment provident fund act 1952 applicable in every newspaper establishment employing twenty or more employees.

However, the main provision of the act are mainly related to :

  • Special provisions in respect of certain cases of retrenchment    
  • Payment of gratuity
  • Hours of work
  • Leave and earned leave on full wages
  • Fixing or revision of rates of wages in respect of working journalists
  • Enforcement of the recommendations of the wage fixation machinery like wage boards and tribunals.
  • Employees Provident Fund 
  • Recovery of money due from employer

Some Important provisions of the act □ Sec 4 of the act interprets , a working journalist who had been retrenched any time from 14th day of july 1954 to 12th day of march 1955, shall be entitled to receive • wages for one month at the rate to which he was entitled immediately before his retrenchment ,unless he had been given one month notice In writing before such retrenchment and • fifteen days average pay for every completed year of service under the employer shall be given to the working journalist considering equivalent compensation. □ Sec 6 says, the time of work to be done by a working journalist for four consecutive weeks shall not exceed one hundred and forty four hours exclusive of the time of meal ,• and he or she shall get one day of weekly leave by rotation in each week, 10 P.M to 6 P.M being included. □ Sec 7 of the act interprets - Every Working Journalist is entitled to earned leave on full wages for not less than one – eleventh of the period spent on duty • leave on medical certificate on one half of the wages for not less than one eighteenth of the period of service. □ sec 17 of the act interprets, A newspaper employee or any person authorised by him including his family member can make an application to the State Government for the recovery of the amount if any amount is due. The State Government or such authority in behalf of the State Government can issue a certificate for that amount to the Collector, the collector can move forward to recover such amount if the state government is satisfied that ant amount is due. □18 of the act says. An employer shall be punishable with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees if he infringe any provision of the act or any rule or order made thereunder. □ According to section 20, The Central Government may, by notification in the official gazette, makes rules to carry out the purpose of this act. Such rules may provide for all or any of the following •payment of gratuity •hours of work •holidays, earned leave, leave on medical certificate, casual or any kind of leave •form of nomination , procedure of nomination, • manner in which any person may be appointed when nominee is minor. • variation or cancellation of nominations • manner of giving notice •the powers that exercised by an inspector •the registers, records and muster rolls to be prepared and maintained by newspaper establishments, the form in which they should be prepared and maintained and the particulars to be entered there in.

In the case of Avishek Raja v. Sanjay Gupta 2017, The bench of Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha. JJ., held that a wrong understanding of award does not amount to willful disobedience or contempt of the Court. It was the Petitioners’ contention e that the Respondents had not discharged the wages that the jounalist and non-journalist employees were entitled to, as per the Majithia Wage Board Award, constituted under Section 9 of The Working Jounalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955. The recommendations of the Board were notified by the Central Government and accepted and upheld by the Court as a valid and legitimate in its approach. The Petitioners also alleged that the employees who raised their voice for the implementation of the Award, were silenced by arbitrary transfers or termination. The Labour Commission Reports suggested that the Award was implemented fully in some states, partially in some others and not at all in some. It also listed the reasons for non-implementation which ranged from employees’ voluntary waver to financial constraints and from jurisdiction excluding contractual employees to variable pay which was not accounted for the purpose of calculating other allowances. The Petitioners submitted that such reasons were not justified as the Act specified that only more beneficial and favourable rates may be accepted if the notified wages are departed. The respondents submitted that the issues contested in this petition were not dealt with in the previous judgment, which upheld the validity of the recommendations and the jurisdiction of the same could not be exceeded to allege contempt of court. The Court accepted the Respondents’ contention and relied upon a number of judgments to reach the conclusion that the newspaper establishments could not be liable for contempt in the absence of wilful or deliberate intention to commit the same. After clarifying the said award, the Court said that it would be better to resolve such complaints by resorting to the enforcement and remedial machinery provided under the 1955 Act rather than approaching the Courts.

In this unit you have been introduced to the press Council of India, Ethical Code of Conduct for journalists, Working Journalists and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Services & Miscellaneous Provision) Act, 1955 and its welfare measures for working journalists. Under the provisions of the Act a “working journalist” means a person whose principal avocation is that of a journalist. The Act provides that the Central Government as and when necessary shall constitute separate Wage Board to fix or revise rates of wages for working journalist and other newspaper employees.

Press Council is a mechanism for the Press to regulate itself. The Press Council of India was first set up in the year 1966. The present Council functions under the Press Council Act 1978. Ethics are norms for conduct that distinguish between an acceptable and unacceptable behavior. While various existing codes of conduct of journalism of different organisations have some differences, most of them share common elements and these include the principles of — truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, dignity, fairness, public accountability and humanity.