Chhattisgarh Assembly passes bill for protection of mediapersons

Opposition BJP MLAs demanded that bill be sent to Select Committee of assembly for examination

Raipur: The Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly on Wednesday passed a bill that aims to provide protection to mediapersons and prevent violence against them.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel tabled the ‘Chhattisgarh Mediapersons Protection Bill 2023’ in the House for discussion. After it was passed, he termed the day as “historic”.

The opposition BJP MLAs demanded that the bill be sent to the Select Committee of the assembly for examination, which was rejected by Speaker Charandas Mahant.

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The Congress had promised to bring a law to ensure protection to journalists in the state in its poll manifesto ahead of the 2018 assembly elections.

The CM said in the House that the bill is aimed at preventing violence against mediapersons discharging duty in Chhattisgarh and ensuring protection to properties of media persons and media institutions.

The act of violence causes injury or danger to the life of mediapersons and damage and loss of property of mediapersons or media institutions may create unrest in the state, he added.

“Several times the demands were made to implement the law and a committee headed by former Supreme Court Justice Aftab Alam was constituted in 2019 in this regard. This law has been drafted in consultation with all (concerned parties). This day will be written in golden letters and this is a historic day,” he added.

BJP legislators, including Leader of Opposition Narayan Chandel and Ajay Chandrakar, asked whether the state government has consulted with Editors Guild, Press Council of India or Press Clubs in the state and said the recommendation made by the committee constituted to draft the bill should have been tabled in the Assembly.

They demanded that the bill be sent to the Select Committee.

Meanwhile, the ruling Congress members claimed that the BJP was against the interest of journalists and trying to stall the bill. Speaker Charandas Mahant rejected the opposition demand.

Later, BJP MLAs said they extend their support to the law but will not take part in the discussion.

The bill has defined a ‘mediaperson’ and laid down eligibility for the registration of mediapersons under this law.

As per the bill, a media person living in Chhattisgarh and having an experience of at least one year in journalism will be eligible for registration under this law.

A person who has published six articles or news as writer or co-writer in a media institution on current incidents in the last three months or a person who has received minimum three payments from media organisations for compiling news in the last six months, it said.

A person who has taken photographs that have been published in a media institution three times in the last three months or a person accredited by the Government as a journalist or person who has been declared as a media person by a media organisation as its employee will be eligible for registration, the bill said.

Mediaperson has been defined as any employee or representative of a media institution including editor, writer, news editor, deputy editor, feature writer, correspondent, copy editor, communicator, cartoonist, news photographer, video journalist, translator, train journalist, news gatherer or independent journalists.

The bill stated that the government will constitute a committee which will be known as ‘Chhattisgarh Media Freedom, Protection and Promotion Committee’ within 90 days of the enactment of the Act, which will also act as authority for the registration of media persons.

The committee will address complaints related to the protection of media persons, which include harassment, intimidation, violence or false allegations and arrest of media persons.

The Chairman of the committee will be a retired administrative/police service officer not below the level of secretary rank in the state government. An officer of the Prosecution Branch nominated by the Home Department, who is not less than the rank of Joint Director and three media persons having an experience of more than ten years in journalism and at least one of them shall be a woman, it said.

The bill further stated that the tenure of the committee shall be three years and no nominated member shall be re-nominated for more than one term in this committee.

The law also provides that any public servant found violating rules laid down under this law then he/she shall be punished with appropriate fine after a departmental enquiry, it said.

The Act stated that if a private person is the cause of violence, harassment or intimidation of a mediaperson, the committee, after examining the case and hearing both the parties, can impose a penalty of Rs 25,000 against the perpetrator.

Similarly, if any company is the cause of intimidation, torture or violence of a mediaperson then a fine of Rs 10,000 will be imposed after examination of the case and hearing of both parties by the committee.

Besides, if any person tries to create hindrances in registration of eligible mediapersons then a penalty of Rs 25,000 will be imposed on the concerned person after hearing of both parties by the committee.

If any media person furnishes to the committee any information which he knows or believes to be false and if the committee found the complaint as false, then the registration of the concerned mediaperson can be cancelled for the first time and for the second time, the mediaperson can be punished with a maximum penalty of Rs 10,000.

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