GUWAHATI, April 16 - Expressing concern at reports of some media houses in the country resorting to salary cuts and sacking of their employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, principal opposition Congress party today requested media houses to refrain from such actions while at the same time, calling upon the government to immediately announce a financial stimulus package for the sector.
Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said media has continued its operations despite numerous obstacles which have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown.
�The newspapers and news media have also felt the impact of COVID-19. However, despite the lockdown the newspapers are continuing their operations and fulfilling their responsibility towards society. Unfortunately, some media houses have resorted to certain steps which will hurt their employees. In some cases employees have been sacked. In some cases salaries of employees have been cut. As a result, the journalists and other media sector employees are suffering from anxiety and apprehensions. We all are worried,� said Gogoi.
He added, �We request media houses not to sack their staff or cut salaries of their employees. We hope media houses will refrain from undertaking such actions. Even the Prime Minister has called upon all companies not to sack employees or reduce salaries in this period of crisis.�
Gogoi said that media, as the fourth pillar of Democracy, has a very crucial role in society. �As such, we request the government to provide a stimulus package to newspapers and media houses. Both the Central and Assam governments should do so at the earliest. Journalists are functioning as soldiers in the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. The government should provide relief to the media sector and journalists,� said the three-time Chief Minister.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Ripun Bora said that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all sectors and the media industry in India and Assam is also facing problems on account of it.
�However, many national media houses, instead of working together with their employees at this time of crisis, have resorted to pay cuts and sacking and forcing many staff members to take leave without pay. This is very unfortunate. This will impact tens of thousands of media sector employees and their families,� Bora said.
He added, �Many media organisations have been in existence for decades and a loss of advertising revenue or subscriber base for a period of one or two months should not lead to a situation where thousands of their employees lose jobs or face salary cuts. In such a situation, we urge all media houses across India, including Assam, not to resort to staff retrenchment or salary cuts. Media personnel should not be made to suffer on account of temporary losses faced by media houses,� the State Congress chief said.
Bora called upon the Central government to provide �a stimulus package for the media sector, with special emphasis on the print media to help it tide over this crisis.�
He added that in Assam, the media, and especially, the print media, has played a vital role in nation building since the pre-Independence era.
�As such, the Assam government should also take steps to help the local and regional media houses of the State. Some sort of subsidy or stimulus to local and regional media houses will come handy to revive the sector at this crucial moment. In addition, journalists, like health workers, police and security personnel and other emergency services staff, are working round the clock in Assam at this time of pandemic to bring news to the public and help the government in the fight to prevent spread of COVID-19. So, media personnel of Assam should be immediately brought under coverage of the health insurance scheme announced recently by the State government for staff of other emergency services,� Bora said.