AMWJU throws a gauntlet

859

That relations between the All Manipur Working Journalists Union, AMWJU, and the relatively recent Editors`™ Guild Manipur, EGM, were not exactly cordial was known all along, but nobody would have expected things to come a collision course. In a sentence, the EGM tried to forestall the AMWJU elections, and the AMWJU responded by severing all links with the EGM. In an official press release yesterday, the AMWJU said its emergent general body meeting decided to drop all members of the EGM from AMWJU membership, and if any one of the editors individually wants to be member of the AMWJU, he or she can reapply for fresh membership. No breakup could have been more definitive than summarised in the short press statement. The EGM is yet to say anything on the matter.
While the development is extremely unfortunate, nobody who is aware of the politics within the journalist fraternity in Manipur would be surprised at what happened. The rifts between different hierarchies of journalists were growing, and inevitably so as the profession grew in sophistication. There have also been an increasing number of journalist categories. As for instance, today you have correspondents of national newspapers, print journalists working in morning dailies, others in afternoon tabloids, more in weeklies and still others in the relatively smaller news organisations in the districts, especially the hill districts. Then there is the new tribe of Cable TV journalists. All of them have different work pressures to handle, different duty hours, different sources to tap, different salary packages, different bosses to answer to etc. And this is not unique to Manipur. In Delhi for instance, there is the Foreign Correspondents`™ Club of South Asia at a posh residential locality at Mathura Road, and the Press Club of India, Delhi, at the institutional Raisina Road area, where journalists working for Indian media establishments seek membership. The two have very little to share and there is an undercurrent of mutual contempt too. Both also have the resources to have different clubs to fraternise separately.

Thirty years ago in Manipur, these categories would not have been there, and if they were, they would have been very nebulous. As is the pattern throughout India and the rest of the developing world, in their early days, newspapers were owned by their editors, indicating their activist, rather than commercial beginnings. When Tilak, Gandhi, Irabot started their newspapers, they surely had a mission in mind rather than commerce. The legacy lives on in places like Manipur, but this tradition is beginning to die out, and as is usual during such times of transition, the old culture gets rejected but the new is not totally embraced, leaving rooms for conflicting claims and interests. The current tension within the state`™s journalist fraternity is in many ways a reflection, and physical manifestation, of this tension within.

As the name implies, AMWJU is a union of working journalists, obviously with the aim of promoting and defending the interests of working journalists. A working journalist is defined as a professional who makes a living by full time career engagement in journalism. Editors are journalists too and indeed in the past, though many editors were also proprietors of their newspapers, were members of the AMWJU. About a decade ago, AMWJU sensibly debarred editors with proprietorial interests in newspapers from being its members, after all, the interests of proprietors and their employees will seldom be the same, especially in a commercial organisation. But newspapers today have several editors and not all of them have proprietorial interests and are therefore eligible to be AMWJU members. Still the division within persisted and the EGM came to be a separate organisation. Unfortunately it chose not to work on a different plane than the one on which AMWJU functioned, and therefore began to resemble a parallel body. The clash therefore was already foretold even at very inception of the EGM. Moreover, although editors these days do not necessarily have proprietorial interests, some unfortunately have their proprietors`™ interests in order that their own interests are served. The clash within the state`™s journalist fraternity therefore was predetermined by the changing paradigms of journalism in recent times.

Reconciliation is the best way out. Let the AMWJU be the front of Manipur journalism, therefore have the powers accorded to the status. Within the AMWJU, the EGM can be an autonomous advisory body of senior journalists.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here