Maharashtra passes landmark journalist protection law10 Apr, 2017
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the National Union of Journalists, India, (NUJI) in welcoming the passing of a law in Maharashtra state on April 7 aimed at protecting journalists. The IFJ demands effective implementation of the law in Maharashtra and urges other state governments to pass similar legislation to ensure journalists’ safety.
The Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017 was passed in the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council on April 7. Any incident of violence against media persons or damage or loss of property of media persons or media institutions is now punishable in the state. Any offender who commits or attempts to commit or instigate or provokes the commission of any act of violence against a journalist would be punished with imprisonment extending up to three years and fine, which may extend to Rs 50,000 (approximately USD 780) or both. Besides, offenders shall be liable to pay compensation for damage or loss of the property as well as liable to reimburse medical expenditure incurred by the victim journalist.
The Act also states that only high ranking police officers must investigate incidents of violence against journalists; the offense would be cognisable and non-bailable.
The Act covers reporters, correspondents, editors, news editors, sub-editors, feature writers, proof readers, copy testers, cartoonists and photojournalists from all registered newspapers, online media, news channels, news based electronic media and news station establishment. Branch offices and printing presses would be treated as parts of media houses.
NUJI, lauding the Maharashtra government for its pro-journalist stand and on becoming the first state in India to frame a journalists’ protection act, termed it a “great achievement for the entire journalist community”. NUJI President Ras Bihari said: “The sincere efforts of the NUJI and its district units to build a pressure on all state governments in the country have paid off. The NUJI will take the Maharashtra law as a model and lobby with other states to pass similar legislation.”
The IFJ said: “The IFJ welcomes the passing of the legislation to protect journalists in Maharashtra state and congratulates its affiliates and journalists unions for the achievement. Such laws will help greatly to address violence against journalists and reduce impunity for attackers. Such security can help ensure that journalists work independently. The IFJ demands the effective implementation of the law; and urges other state government and the federal government of India to consider such legislation.”